Rangers look to the future with trade of Soria
On Wednesday night the Rangers traded closer Joakim Soria to the Detroit Tigers for two young pitching prospects, RHP Jake Thompson and RHP Corey Knebel. Trading the closer was the right move considering where the Rangers sit in the standings. Joakim Soria deserves to pitch on a contender and the Tigers are a perfect match for him. The Rangers needed to shed a little payroll and add a pitching prospect to the mix; they got two prospects in return. While it's too early to judge this trade, it looks good on the surface for both teams, even if the price the Tigers paid is high. According to the Baseball America's midseason report, Thompson and Knebel were the Tigers No. 2 and No. 4 prospects, respectively. Getting two of the Detroit top five prospects for a closer is the current price of the market, but it is a high price.
The move further depletes the bullpen after Jason Frasor was traded earlier this month, but the Rangers aren't playing for 2014 anyway. What Jon Daniels has done (and may continue to do) is strengthen an already deep minor league system. With Thompson, Knebel and Spencer Patton (who came over for Frasor) Texas has positioned itself to have power arms that could be ready for Arlington in the near future. While the Rangers have a deep system, it has been lacking at the top level, but that has changed with these two trades.
The starting rotation for the 2016 Rangers has the potential to be an impressive group. Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and a combination of Alex 'Chi Chi' Gonzalez, Luke Jackson, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher or a starter acquired in free agency. Not all prospects work out, but having as many top level prospects as possible gives JD a security blanket that he hasn't had in a few years. Having young quality pitchers also allows the Rangers the financial flexibility to re-sign Darvish or go after a free agent since the young guys will be cheap and under team control for a number of years. 2015 is still up in the air, considering the pitching staff and its health. With Darvish and Holland being the only sure fire starters when they arrive in Spring Training, these young pitchers will get a look with the big league club but they may not be ready to contribute. 2016 could be very exciting when these kids are projected to be ready.
Knebel and Patton deepen the bullpen options for Texas, with Knebel being a power arm projected to be a back of the bullpen piece. With the young bullpen arms they already possess, the Rangers only made themselves better for future years. Joakim Soria will be missed as he was outstanding in almost every outing, but a $5.5 million closer is not a need in a year where you don't contend.
There are still options for Daniels and his staff to get even more prospects with Neal Cotts and Alex Rios as possible trade targets for other teams. With everyone looking for bullpen help and several teams needing a bat, both Cotts and Rios could be moved before the July 31 trading deadline. Trading Rios is a harder move to make, since right field would be a question mark going into 2015. It is going to depend on where the Rangers believe they are in terms of competing next year.
Trades are always risky, as we've seen with Prince Fielder. But trades can also open your window a little further in terms of contending. The Rangers window is not in 2014 and possibly not in 2015, but the 2016 window was just shoved open.
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