The Jose Berrios trade may have grabbed most of the headline’s on Friday, but the Blue Jays quietly made another solid upgrade by acquiring Joakim Soria in the final hour before the deadline.
Soria is no longer a a premier reliever like he was earlier in his career when he twice saved 40 or more games for the Kansas City Royals, but the 37 year old can still bring plenty of value to the table. This season he pitched with the disappointing Diamondbacks and authored an ERA of 4.30 along with a WHIP of 1.33 across 31 appearances that covered 29.1 innings. Those aren’t the kind of numbers to write home about necessarily, but he’s still striking out more than a batter an inning.
If not for a rough outing against the Cubs on July 17th where he allowed three earned runs over just one inning, Soria would be another Blue Jays reliever with an ERA under 4.00. More importantly, he raises the floor of the entire group, which is something I was pleased to see Ross Atkins still pursuing even after landing the big fish in Berrios.
Bringing Soria aboard means the Blue Jays can push their depth chart down in the bullpen, and it may spell the entire of Rafael Dolis’ tenure with the team at some point this week. Prior to Sunday’s game the Jays optioned both Thomas Hatch and Tayler Saucedo back to Triple-A, but there was a good argument to be made to keep both of them over a guy like Dolis at this stage. Regardless, it’s nice that the Jays are in a position where they have more arms than they can keep on the big league roster, which is a stark contrast from where they were sitting earlier in the year.
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One of the other benefits to having Soria around is his experience in multiple roles, including as a closer. He picked up 16 saves as recently as 2018, and had six with the Diamondbacks before the trade. With a career high of 43, Soria knows a thing or two about finishing off games, and not only can he occasionally pitch in those high-leverage situations for the Blue Jays if they ask him to, he’s likely a pretty good resource for Jordan Romano to learn from. In fact, between Soria and Brad Hand I hope Romano is trying to sop up all the knowledge he can about pitching the ninth inning from his new veteran teammates.
It remains to be seen what the Blue Jays will ultimately send back to Arizona in the trade, as it was announced that Toronto would send two players to be named later in exchange for the veteran right-hander. More often than not that ends up being some lower-level prospects that most fans have rarely even heard of, and my guess is the Jays won’t end up having to pay a whole lot in prospect capital when all is said and done.
For a team that had just acquired five other players to upgrade their roster in July (Berrios, Hand, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards, Corey Dickerson), the Blue Jays could have stopped after the Berrios deal and still patted themselves on the back for a job well done. However, as we’ve learned all too well as Blue Jays fans this year, every pitch is going to count in a tight AL playoff race, especially in the late innings. Don’t be surprised if Soria ends up being a very important piece as this team pursues a playoff spot down the stretch.