Brewers bolster bullpen with Soria addition
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Brewers have needs in the lineup and the starting rotation, but creative GM David Stearns went a different direction with the team's first major deal of this non-waiver Trade Deadline season: He bolstered the bullpen, the team's clear strength.
Milwaukee acquired veteran reliever Joakim Soria and cash from the White Sox for two pitching prospects including former first-round Draft pick Kodi Medeiros. Soria will be active beginning Friday night at AT&T Park.
Left-handed pitcher Medeiros, who was the Brewers' No. 13-ranked prospect, and right-hander Wilber Perez are headed to the White Sox in the deal. Medeiros is 22 years old and pitching at Double-A Biloxi. Perez, 20, is in the Dominican Summer League.
"This is the price of poker," said Stearns. "We view Soria as one of the better available arms on the market this year and he fits our team well."
It's the second straight year that Stearns and the Brewers have acquired a late-inning reliever from the White Sox. Last year, Milwaukee picked up another veteran right-hander with a resurgent slider, Anthony Swarzak. He delivered a 1.03 WHIP in 29 appearances for Milwaukee.
The Brewers would be thrilled with a similar performance from Soria, 34, who has a 2.56 ERA, 16 saves, 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings and a .230 opponents' average in 40 relief appearances this season, his first with the White Sox. That's his highest strikeout rate since 2009 with the Royals.
He has been particularly effective of late, with a 0.74 ERA (two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings) over his last 25 appearances, and no extra-base hits allowed over his last 25 innings. He'd been serving as Chicago's closer, but will simply be an "out-getter" for the Brewers, said manager Craig Counsell, an indication he plans to continue using Corey Knebel in the traditional closer role.
"I'm just going there to try to help them in whatever situation they feel I'm fit for," Soria said in Anaheim, where the White Sox finished a series against the Angels on Thursday. "And I'm going to be ready for them for every type of scenario they can put me."
Unlike some other relievers on this market, Soria is not necessarily a rental. He is earning $9 million in the final guaranteed season of a three-year deal signed with Kansas City and has a $10 million mutual option for 2019 with a $1 million buyout.
"This is a guy who has effectively handled some very close games and high-leverage situations this year," Sterns said. "We feel great bringing him into the fold."
Soria is one of two veteran relievers joining the Brewers bullpen Friday. Right-hander Matt Albers, a free-agent addition last offseason who has been sidelined since early June by a shoulder injury, was back with the team Thursday and will be active beginning Friday night.
When both are active, Counsell's late-inning relief options will begin with closer Knebel (an All-Star a season ago who has fought his command at times this season), 2018 All-Stars Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress, plus Soria, Albers, Taylor Williams and Dan Jennings. Top pitching prospect Corbin Burnes is also currently in the big league bullpen.
Former Brewers GM Doug Melvin had a trade in place that would have sent Carlos Gomez to the Mets for Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores in July 2015, but that was later nixed by New York. Melvin sent Gomez to the Astros in a blockbuster trade the next day.
Asked if he cared to shoot down the latest Wheeler chatter, Stearns said, "I'll let all of that be. It's fun for everyone."
He characterized the Brewers as "active and engaged with various teams" in other talks as the Deadline approaches.
Medeiros was selected by the Brewers in the first round (12th overall) of the 2014 Draft out of Waiakea [Hawaii] High School. He has 412 strikeouts in 104 career appearances (75 starts) over five seasons (2014-18) in the Brewers organization.
Perez, 20, is 5-1 with a 2.01 ERA and 47 strikeouts in eight starts this season with the DSL Brewers.