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Arizona Diamondbacks sign Joakim Soria

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Six of 10 Oakland A’s free agents have now signed elsewhere

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners - Game One Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s began the offseason with 10 of their players reaching free agency, and six of those players have now signed elsewhere.

The latest departure became official Wednesday, when relief pitcher Joakim Soria signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It’s a one-year contract for $3.5 million plus incentives and is still pending a physical, adds Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

Soria spent the last two seasons in Oakland as a quality setup man. In 2019 his results were merely mediocre despite strong underlying peripherals, and in 2020 it all came together with a brilliant 2.82 ERA, 2.97 FIP, near perfection in holding leads, and a Statcast xwOBA that ranked in the best 15% or so of MLB relievers. In his entire tenure with the A’s, he didn’t allow a single inherited runner to score, stranding all nine.

The right-hander will pitch at age 37 this season, which will be his 14th in the majors.

Soria is the second member of the A’s dominant 2020 bullpen to sign with a new team this winter, and the sixth free agent overall to find a new home. Four more remain unsigned. The full list (rounded up to the nearest million):

  • RHP Mike Fiers
  • RHP Liam Hendriks (CHW, 3/$54m)
  • RHP Yusmeiro Petit
  • RHP Joakim Soria (ARZ, 1/$4m)
  • LHP T.J. McFarland
  • LHP Mike Minor (KCR, 2/$18m)
  • 2B Tommy La Stella (SFG, 3/$20m)
  • SS Marcus Semien (TOR, 1/$18m)
  • 3B Jake Lamb
  • OF Robbie Grossman (DET, 2/$10m)

Holdovers remaining in the A’s bullpen picture for 2021 include Jake Diekman, J.B. Wendelken, Lou Trivino, Burch Smith, and Jordan Weems, plus some promising minor league prospects. Over the offseason they’ve made a few additions including trade acquisition Nik Turley, Rule 5 draft pick Dany Jimenez, and the normal annual round of minor league free agents.

Analysis

This is fine. The A’s apparently have literally zero money to spend this winter, and if they were to find a few bucks in a couch cushion then I’d want them to spend it on the middle infield. Bullpens can be made on minimum salaries.

That’s not a knock on Soria. His age is getting up there and someday he will decline, but at last sight he was a really good setup man and he could be again this year. Oakland usually isn’t opposed to spending some money on former star closers in their mid/late-30s, exactly as they did on Soria in the first place two years ago, and in a normal winter if they’d brought him back at 1yr/$3.5m that would have been perfectly fine. It’s actually a good value contract.

But it wouldn’t have been for the A’s. They need to roll the dice by going cheap somewhere — maybe everywhere, but definitely somewhere — and the bullpen should absolutely be the first place that happens because they’re just so darn good at plucking star relievers out of nowhere. There are already a bunch of interesting candidates on the 40-man roster, some of whom made excellent first impressions last summer.

Soria did a good job in Oakland and gave the A’s exactly what they were hoping for when they signed him. Now it made sense to move on, with the A’s trying the next cheap breakout candidates and Soria finding a new club on terms that are reasonable for both sides.