With his club sporting the fifth highest bullpen ERA and a struggling closer who’s allowed 12 earned runs in his last 16.0 innings, General Manager Dave Dombrowski swung a deal with the Rangers, acquiring former All-Star right-hander Joakim Soria in exchange for two of the club’s top pitching prospects.
Soria’s quietly flown under the radar, thanks in part to the Rangers’ snake-bitten season, and has rebounded better than expected from his Tommy John surgery. Prior to the procedure, the Mexican-born former Rule 5 draft pick was once among the top handful of relievers in the game, posting a 2.90 FIP to go along with impressive secondary skills (9.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9).
He battled some problematic control during his return last season (5.3 BB/9), but is arguably having the best year of his career in 2014: 11.3 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 1.07 FIP, and zero homeruns allowed. Stabilize
Like Soria, Thompson has flown under the prospect radar during his three-year career, despite debuting in Class AA at the age of 20. I named the big right-hander as the club’s #2 prospect in my updated rankings. He breezed through 16 starts in both low Class A and high Class A, averaging roughly a strike out per inning with better than average control. He’s likely another season away from sniffing the big leagues, but has the ceiling of solid #2/#3-type arm.
Knebel, the 39th pick last June, already made his big league debut this season. He flashes a mid 90s fastball, hard curve, and a rare changeup. The former Texas Longhorn closer struck out 84 and walked 27 during his 64.1 minor league innings.
Detroit obviously added a late-inning, high leverage impact arm who could be under team control through the end of next because of a reasonable $7 million team option. And while the cost – a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher and a MLB-ready backend reliever – seems awfully steep, it’s basically in line with what the Angels parted with to acquire two months of Huston Street.
As for the Rangers, well, they acquired their closer of the future to go along with another high upside minor league arm.
Photo courtesy of Richard W. Rodriguez via star-telegram.com.