Over the weekend Matt Conner wrote a piece about the Jonathan Papelbon free agency signing with the Philadelphia Phillies changing.Joakim Soria's trade value for the Kansas City Royals. He goes on to include that the Royals have quite a bit of leverage in comparison to other closers who may be on the market because of Soria's age and current contract situation.
Naturally the Boston Red Sox stick out as a team that would be in the market for a closer, having lost Papelbon. Seemingly every team in the American League East Division could be looking to add a closer, except the Baltimore Orioles. The Washington Nationals also are looking for a closer in addition to others having varying interest as well.
So what would the Royals be looking for in exchange? It's hard to gauge the value of a top-flight closer because they aren't often traded during their prime. The last true comparable trade for a closer in their prime and with the history that Soria already has was Francisco Cordero being traded at the 2006 deadline from the Texas Rangers to the Milwaukee Brewers. Cordero and parts were sent to the Brewers in exchange for Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz. Lee was 30 at the time and coming off three consecutive seasons of at least 30 home runs and 99 RBI. Cruz was 24-years old and had appeared in just 8 game at the major league level to that point. Though he had solid minor league numbers, Cruz has exploited his opportunities with Texas and turned into one of the most feared power hitters of the present.
Other recent closers traded have included Huston Street used in a package deal to acquire Matt Holliday, and though Jose Valverde has turned into a stellar closer, he only had 98 career saves in five major league seasons when he was sent from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Houston Astros in December 2007.
Getting back to what the Royals should expect, the answer is a major league ready starter. That is Kansas City's top priority. The organization should also make a request for another high quality minor leaguer in addition to a lower level minor league player with a high upside.
Looking at what Boston has to offer, it appears that a trade may be something difficult to agree to, however the Royals should gauge maximum return for Soria. Unfortunately there is no possible way the Royals would be able to obtain Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox. The most ready arm in the Boston system is Kyle Weiland, who according to Soxprospects.com, has the ceiling of being a pitcher in the back end of the rotation with a second tier club. While it would be nice to have the additional arm compete for a spot in the rotation, there is nothing that guarantees Weiland being better than Kyle Davies at the major league level. Weiland was 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in seven appearances with Boston during 2011. He struck out only one batter more than he walked, and allowed 29 hits in 24.2 innings pitched. As a Royals fan, I think I'll pass.
The Toronto Blue Jays are a bit more appealing in a potential trade, having young arms in Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil. Drabek, 23 has struggled in his brief major league time, while Cecil, 24, has experienced moderate success at the major league level. In 2010, Cecil was 15-7 with a 4.22 ERA that has been sandwiched by two seasons with mixed results. Henderson Alvarez, a 6'1" right-hander is another interesting name. The 21-year old debuted with the Blue Jays this past season and was 1-3 with a 3.53 ERA in 10 starts. He struck out 40, while walking just eight. He would certainly be a name to key on in any potential Soria to the Blue Jays deal. Alvarez shot up the prospect charts in 2011, after having been named just the 20th best prospect in their minor league system last winter by John Sickels.
I won't touch upon other positional pieces needed in a potential deal, because a starting pitcher that is major league ready is far and away the top priority in a potential deal. This is by no means a call for Soria to be traded, but to be looked at as a potential guideline in the type of value that would need to be realized in any potential deal. Looking at that alone, Boston would certainly have to overpay to acquire Soria, as Toronto has young players that much better fit what the Royals would be looking for.