The Tigers have made a major move toward strengthening a struggling bullpen.
The team announced Wednesday night that they have traded pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel to the Texas Rangers for Joakim Soria.
Soria has been serving as the Rangers closer, picking up 17 saves in 19 attempts and posting a 2.70 ERA in 35 outings. The 30-year-old has struck out 42 batters in 33 1/3 innings while only walking four, and would instantly become the best reliever on Detroit’s roster.
FOX Sports 1’s Gabe Kapler is certainly a fan of the trade, tweeting "#Tigers fans, here’s my take on Soria, the best reliever in baseball in 14 (FIP) from June," along with a picture of a hand-written note comparing him to Mariano Rivera.
Tigers president Dave Dombrowski told multiple beat writers that Joe Nathan will remain Detroit’s closer, despite posting an ERA over three runs a game higher than Soria’s this season. However, it is not a new scenario for either man, as Soria served as Nathan’s set-up man last season with the Rangers.
That made sense in 2013, with Soria returning from Tommy John surgery, but Nathan’s long-term status must be in question. Brad Aumsus had been reluctant to use Joba Chamberlain to replace Nathan, believing that he needed a proven closer, but Soria has unquestionable credentials to pitch the ninth inning.
Soria certainly didn’t come cheaply. Thompson and Knebel were both ranked in Detroit’s top five prospects before this season, and have done little to change that opinion.
Knebel made it all the way from Double-A Erie to pitch in the majors, while Thompson represented Team USA in the Futures Game earlier this month, and was then promoted to the SeaWolves. In 18 starts between Lakeland and Erie, he has gone 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 94 innings.
Knebel and Thompson are both Texas natives, and Thompson was excited for the opportunity to pitch in the Lone Star State.