Tigers pick up contract talks with Soria, but no offer yet
The Tigers’ search for a closer might well be in the middle innings at this point. With teams gauging interest for their late-inning relievers on the trade market as a shallower free-agent market lingers, the same could be said of many clubs.
The Tigers have picked up negotiations with Soria’s agent since their face-to-face meeting at last week’s GM Meetings, but have yet to present an offer, an industry source told MLB.com. That could come later this week.
While interest is strong in the 31-year-old right-hander, who racked up 24 saves between Detroit and Pittsburgh this past season, the market has been slow to move, save for an early offer from an unnamed club. One perception among some industry observers is that trade chatter involving late-inning relievers, even after Craig Kimbrel’s trade to Boston for prospects, is having an impact on what was a relatively quick-moving relief market last offseason.
That market could include Rays closer Brad Boxberger and left-hander Jake McGee if the return is big enough. The Tigers are among the teams that expressed interest, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Unlike All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, another reliever the Tigers have checked in on, Boxberger and McGee both have multiple years before they’re eligible for free agency — two years away for McGee, four for Boxberger. Chapman can hit the free-agent market next winter. With the Reds believed to be seeking a hefty return — Major League ready talent, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark — the value for a club could hinge on winning now and/or signing Chapman long-term.
Other closers rumored to be up for trade discussion include Pittsburgh’s Mark Melancon, Texas’ Shawn Tolleson, Philadelphia’s Ken Giles, Washington’s tandem of Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen, and Yankees closer Andrew Miller, though the Yankees would reportedly have to be overwhelmed by an offer with young pitching to part with Miller with three years left on his contract.
Part of the problem the Tigers encounter on the trade market is their competition. Other clubs reportedly seeking closers, such as the Astros, have deeper farm systems that can shed a prospect or two without much long-term impact. The Red Sox are out of the market after trading for Kimbrel, but gave up enough of a package to impact expectations for other clubs on what they could get for their closer. Detroit, meanwhile, is in the midst of rebuilding the farm system and needs a good share of the young Major League-ready pitching it has.
Meanwhile, Soria appears to be in position to let trade talks play out and wait for the market to come to him. The same could be said of fellow free-agent reliever Darren O’Day, who has not been a full-time closer but is seen by many as closer potential after six saves this past season and 12 over the last three years. The combination could leave the Tigers in a holding pattern to fill what was expected to be the first task on new general manager Al Avila’s to-do list.