The Detroit Tigers hold a comfortable 6 1/2 game lead in the AL Central — which is the largest for any division leader in either league — yet their fans rarely feel comfortable holding a lead in the late innings thanks to a very shaky bullpen.
Kyle Bogenschutz of 97.1 The Ticket first reported the deal. He also noted the Rangers will receive valuable pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel to complete the deal, which shows how serious and perhaps desperate the Tigers are to plug the holes.
The deal comes less than 24 hours after Detroit's bullpen coughed up another late lead in an eventual 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Setup men Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque combined to walk the bases loaded, and then Ian Krol allowed a game-winning two-run single to Miguel Montero. With Joba Chamberlain unavailable, rookie manager Brad Ausmus had no reliable arm to turn to to get through the inning, and that includes closer Joe Nathan.
Nathan, who signed a two-year $20 million deal in January, has inspired no confidence in the ninth inning. Through 39 appearances, he's converted only 20 of 25 save opportunities while posting a 5.89 ERA.
That's where Soria should come in handy. The 30-year-old right-hander has gone 17-for-19 in save chances with a 2.70 ERA for the struggling Rangers this year. He's been one of their few bright spots, mainly because he's been able to stay healthy. That's actually really big news considering he missed all of 2012 and the first half of 2013 following his second career Tommy John surgery.
It's not clear where Soria will slot in immediately with Detroit, but just having another option he can mix-and-match with Chamberlain in the late innings should give Ausmus some comfort. If Nathan maintains the closer's role, at least the bridge to get there will be more sturdy.
To acquire Soria, the Tigers parted with the fifth and seventh best prospects according Baseball's preseason rankings. Thompson, 20, is a right-handed pitcher who was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. He has a 3.13 ERA in 17 starts between High Class-A and Double-A.
Knebel, 22, gained some big league experience earlier this season, allowing seven runs in 8 2/3 innings. He has a 1.26 ERA in 64 1/3 minor league innings since Detroit drafted him 39th overall in the 2013 draft.
Both pitchers will be welcome additions for Texas, who this year especially have learned that you can never have enough pitching depth.
As for the Tigers, other bullpen moves should follow. Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon is reportedly on their radar, and other options could pop up even beyond the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline as more teams fall out of contention. It's basically a bullpen rebuild in the midst of a pennant race, which is never an easy or ideal position to be in.
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