On February 3rd, it was announced that free-agent Joakim Soria would join the ranks of the 2021 Arizona Diamondbacks. The Mexican hurler is the latest addition to a bullpen that has been plagued by trouble for a couple of years now, and the inclusion of such a reliable arm could be the answer to their prayers.
The D-Backs signed Soria to a one-year, 3.5 million-dollar contract, which is curious considering his age. Very few free agents this year have landed these kinds of deals, let alone a man who will turn 37 in May. This contract includes performance bonuses for any certain numbers of innings pitched.
2021 Arizona Diamondbacks: Landing a Top Reliever
The veteran has been one of the most consistent relievers of the last four years. He’s even listed in the top 10 for that position by sites like Fangraphs. In 2020, Soria pitched for the Oakland Athletics, one of the League’s greatest pens, and stood out as one of its best members.
The Monclova native finished the season with a respectable 2.82 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 22.1 innings, 24 strikeouts, and only 10 walks (including three intentional walks). His FIP is particularly noteworthy; with last season’s performance, he finished the 2017-20 period at 2.78, ranking above star closers such as Josh Hader and recent Nationals signee Brad Hand, with 2.85 and 2.87 respectively.
This is great news for the 2021 Arizona Diamondbacks, as their bullpen was considered one of their main weaknesses in the past years, especially when it came to holding leads. Soria’s impressive consistency is a rare feature for a thrower his age; while most of his peers experienced steep decline years younger than him, “El Látigo” has kept notable numbers across 13 seasons.
More impressively, Soria even improved in the last stretch of his career, the aforementioned 2017-20 lapse. From 2014 to 2016, he held a 9.07 K/9, with 2.62 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9,3.55 FIP, and 2.1 WAR in 178.2 innings; he improved on all metrics except walks per nine, as he accumulated 10.47 K/9, with 0.65 HR/9, and an astonishing 5.1 WAR in 208 innings.
Soria’s signing could solve an important problem for the 2021 Arizona Diamondbacks. The team was seriously in need of a closer and/or set-up man that holds the attack and is hard to hit with any pitch. The Phoenix team has incredible challenges ahead, especially facing division rivals Dodgers and Padres, and also needs to address the long relief issues, but for now, they’re pretty much covered in the final innings.
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