Tigers may look to bring back Soria for 2016
DETROIT -- The Tigers and Joakim Soria are open to the idea of a reunion as the former closer hits the free-agent market. But between a small market of established closers and a large number of teams looking for bullpen help, Detroit is going to have to get in line for his services.
The Tigers have discussed the possibility of Soria's return and touched base with his agent, Oscar Suarez, sources confirmed to MLB.com. The Detroit News reported the Tigers' interest earlier this week. Since Soria finished the season with the Pirates, other teams can contact his representation but can't negotiate contract terms until the exclusivity window expires on Friday night.
Soria is believed to be attracting a strong level of preliminary interest from clubs as free agency begins, given the supply and demand of the market.
After watching his original team, the Royals, win their first World Series title in 30 years, and his old Texas Rangers club make a September run back to the postseason, the 31-year-old Soria appears likely to look for a chance to close with a contender. The Tigers should have the advantage of a comfort level, but Soria has also found a comfort level wherever he has been.
Soria took over as Tigers closer once Joe Nathan sustained an elbow injury on Opening Day, but he was already next in line if Nathan struggled early in the season.
Soria saved 23 games in 26 opportunities in Detroit, converting his first 13 save opportunities until Houston's Preston Tucker hit a game-tying home run off Soria in the ninth inning on May 21 at Comerica Park. Soria gave up five home runs in June, including a game-tying solo shot from Adam LaRoche on June 5 in Chicago and a 13th-inning walk-off grand slam from Todd Frazier on June 17 in Cincinnati.
The Tigers' decision to become sellers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline put Soria on the market, where then-president/general manager Dave Dombrowski quickly found a suitor in Pittsburgh, which needed setup help behind closer Mark Melancon. Detroit dealt Soria to the Pirates for infielder JaCoby Jones, who has risen quickly up the Tigers' prospect rankings (No. 10) between a strong finish at Double-A Erie and a solid start in the Arizona Fall League.
Soria, meanwhile, made 29 appearances with the Pirates, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 23 hits over 26 2/3 innings with eight walks and 28 strikeouts. For the season, Soria allowed 20 runs (19 earned) on 55 hits over 67 2/3 innings with 19 walks and 64 strikeouts. His 72 appearances set a career high, while his innings workload was his highest since his rookie season in Kansas City in 2007.
No other pitcher heads into free agency this offseason off even a 20-save season, though Tyler Clippard just missed with 19. The rest of the market is a mix of former closers -- ex-Tiger Fernando Rodney, Jonathan Broxton and Ryan Madson among them -- and pitchers who some teams might project to be closers, such as Orioles setup man Darren O'Day and Pirates lefty Antonio Bastardo.
Aroldis Chapman looms as an option for clubs should the Reds decide to trade him before he's eligible for free agency next winter, but the Tigers aren't expected to sap their just-replenished farm system for such a deal.