We interrupt this offseason programming to bring you thoughts on an actual transaction!
The White Sox’s trade for Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan might not make much sense if you take it at face value. A contending team acquires experienced relievers to bolster its bullpen, and a non-contending team with such relievers usually trades them to said contenders for future value.
The Sox are a non-contending team going the opposite route by trading a major league ready utility man for a pair of short-term bullpen assets. However, given the current state of the relief corps, it’s understandable that Rick Hahn and Co. would want to add a couple of veterans in order to push the filler into less important roles. It also allows Rick Renteria to ease younger pitchers like Aaron Bummer, Jace Fry, and Thyago Vieira into the late innings.
Plus, it’s just more watchable baseball. We saw in 2014 the kind of demoralizing tire fire a truly bad bullpen can become, and although Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam rose from the ashes and rubbery fumes, it might have been nice to have another option or two to prevent Petricka from being thrown to the wolves in 18 save situations, or Ronald Belisario from being the highest-leverage reliever.
As things stand, Soria is likely to be the recipient of many of those save opportunities. Consider that before the trade, the bullpen was shaping up to look something like this:
- Juan Minaya
- Gregory Infante
- Aaron Bummer
- Jace Fry
- Danny Farquhar
- Thyago Vieira
- Jose Ruiz/Dylan Covey
Soria has 204 saves in his career, although he hasn’t gotten more than one in a season since 2015. He’s a good candidate to get work in high leverage given his pedigree and his excellent peripherals last season. Soria’s FIP was a measly 2.23, and he struck out 28 percent of the batters he faced across 56 innings.
Or, if you want to dig into some of the more groundbreaking statistics, Casey Boguslaw’s got you covered:
Joakim Soria had a nice bounce-back season in 2017 - 3.24 Barrel FIP was 42nd among MLB RP. Luis Avilan had a 3.85 BFIP last season hindered by a 10+ BB%. Two trade pieces for Hahn at this year's deadline.— Casey Boguslaw (@caseyboguslaw) January 5, 2018
Avilan doesn’t quite have Soria’s track record, but he too has the stuff to strike out more than a batter per inning. His charge will be to limit the walks, and working with Don Cooper is much more likely to help that cause than to hurt it. He can serve as the primary lefty out of the bullpen, with Bummer as backup.
What I don’t understand is the Royals’ side of this trade. They get rid of Soria’s salary, but they also lose an excellent reliever in Scott Alexander, who might have been able to bring back a better return on his own than what they got. If this is the price they pay to clear payroll space for Eric Hosmer, as Jeff Passan suggested, that’s moving in a lot of directions at once.
For the Sox, though, this is a move that eases some pressures in the present, but also allows for the possibility to cash in at the trade deadline. If one or both pitchers are performing well, they would join Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia as players that could be attractive to a win-now club, especially in the summer, when relievers are often at a premium. With two young middle infielders locked in, Jake Peter becomes somewhat redundant, so he’s been traded for present value that could soon be traded for future value again.