The Red Sox have interest in free agent reliever Joakim Soria, according to Jon Morosi.
If Boston's need for an ace is priority 1A, revamping their unfortunate bullpen is not far behind at 1B. They were the league's worst unit in 2015 by fWAR, with their 4.24 ERA painting an equally grim picture. Headed into 2016, once you get past Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, they have few names they can rely on.
Is Joakim Soria the kind of player they need to improve that unit? Well, it's hard to imagine he's going to be worse than the average 2015 reliever, but he's not without his flaws. Soria is coming off his most successful year since his 2012 Tommy John Surgery, at least in terms of results. He posted a 2.53 ERA, which is not nearly at the levels of his pre-Tommy John heights, but is exactly the sort of thing the Red Sox need.
For all that, though, he posted the lowest strikeout rate of his career, and completely failed to replicate his career-low walk rates from 2014. And, for what it's worth, he pitched more innings than he has since 2008, possibly making 2016 one of the riskier years of his career, particularly if the Sox require him to carry a heavy load in a shallow bullpen.
The good news is that the diminished strikeout rate isn't the result of any other signs of decline. His velocity actually ticked upward last year by a good bit, suggesting that Soria is actually getting closer to his pre-Tommy John self as he leaves the surgery further behind. He induced more bad swings than he ever has before, and more swings than ever before despite pitching outside the zone more often than ever before. Given that his numbers improved as the year went on, it's not hard to imagine that batters were more aggressive against Soria than ever after a 2014 season without walks, and it just took him a little bit to adjust to that.
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As with any reliever, though, Soria can only be worth so much to the Red Sox in terms of dollars, particularly if they need to find room on the payroll for an ace. He's not going to be paid like that top tier of relievers who hit eight digits annually, but the Red Sox will have to commit a legitimate chunk of change if they want to land Soria, probably somewhere in the vicinity of $7 to $8 million per year for two-to-three years.
The Red Sox could do a lot, lot worse than Soria. I really wish he had at least one more great year in his recent history, but some considerations can be made given his medical history, and bringing in relievers is always something of a crapshoot. Really, though, the first question isn't even whether or not Soria is a good buy. Every decision the Red Sox make this offseason will be framed by how they deal with their rotation issue. Until they get their man--be it via free agency or trade--it's going to be hard to say whether they can afford a contract like Soria's, or if they have to find other ways to fix the bullpen.