Royals appear to be parting ways with Soria
GM Moore said former All-Star closer wanted to test free-agent market
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Joakim Soria era in Kansas City is apparently over.
According to reports at the Winter Meetings, Soria has agreed to a two-year contract with the Texas Rangers. He's to undergo a physical in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday.
Soria was the Royals' closer for the last 4 1/2 seasons of his five with the team. He missed the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 3. When the Royals declined to exercise their option on his 2013 contract for $8 million and were unable to work out a new agreement, Soria became a free agent.
"We had interest in bringing Joakim back, it just didn't work out," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "We had a period of time early on when we had exclusivity with negotiations and it just didn't happen. He wanted to explore the market and once you get out there in the market, it's obviously open season and he was just able to get a better deal right now than we could offer."
Soria, when he's able to return to Major League pitching, is expected to become a setup man for Rangers closer Joe Nathan. He'd join Tanner Scheppers as a right-handed complement to left-handers Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman.
If Soria comes back healthy and successful, there's a chance he could wind up as the Rangers' closer in 2014. Nathan is signed through the 2013 season and the Rangers hold a $9 million option for 2014 with a $750,000 buyout.
Now living in Scottsdale, Ariz., Soria has been working out at the Royals' facility in Surprise and won't have to make much of a change for Spring Training -- Texas and KC share the complex. He's expected to start throwing off a mound in January.
Soria was plucked out of the San Diego system in the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings of 2006, Moore's first as Royals GM. By midseason of 2007, Soria had become so effective that the Royals traded closer Octavio Dotel to give him the job.
Over five seasons, Soria recorded 160 saves and a 2.40 ERA in 298 games. He was an All-Star in his two best seasons -- 2008, when he finished with 42 saves and a 1.60 ERA, and 2010, when he had 43 saves and a 1.78 ERA.
"He's one of our favorites. One of the classiest, highly-professional players and people that I've ever been around," Moore said. "I wish him and [wife] Karla and his family the very, very best. Our partnership and relationship will always be strong."
Soria underwent his first ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, aka Tommy John surgery, in 2003 when he was in the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization. He was 21 then, he's 28 now.
"He's a young man and he'll be in this game a long time," Moore said. "He's overcome a lot with his second Tommy John and I'm confident that he'll come back and do very, very well."
While Soria became a non-possibility for the Royals' bullpen, Moore apparently was not close to adding to his starting rotation which was already bolstered by the addition of Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie.
"No, but you're always searching and evaluating. So even if you're not successful getting somebody, you're making progress," Moore said. "We feel really good about the way our team stands right now, knowing we're always going to have to make adjustments. Between now and Spring Training, between Spring Training and Opening Day or mid-year. If you're going to win a championship, you're constantly massaging and making adjustments to your roster. Right now we feel our team is better now than it was on last Opening Day and better than where it was at the end of 2012."
Names continued to float around -- the Mets' Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and free agents Anibal Sanchez and Brett Myers.
Moore discounted recent reports that the Royals were infused with additional money beyond the payroll target of roughly $70 million to go after a free-agent pitcher.
"You do your best to win the negotiations for players and you can push as far as you can, and hopefully it's good enough. Sometimes it's not, sometimes it is," Moore said. "But nothing has really changed."
The Royals' satisfaction with their basic lineup and their bullpen means, basically, that Moore in these meetings is trying to make one meaningful move with the rotation. Whether he can pull it off or not is another matter.
"We're trying to upgrade [with players] that'll make a major difference in our team, and how many opportunities do you get to do that? Not many," he said. "And it's costly in both ways. Good players are usually making money and they cost a lot to get, in terms of talent."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.