The Tigers have agreed to acquire closer Joakim Soria from the Rangers for minor league right-handed pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has confirmed. Kyle Bogenschutz of 971 The Ticket first reported the deal.
Despite signing former Rangers closer Joe Nathan as a free agent over the winter, Detroit has had major bullpen issues this year. Nathan is 20-for-25 in save chances and has a 5.89 ERA. The bullpen as a unit has a 4.41 ERA, the fifth worst in baseball coming into Wednesday.
Soria, 30, has gone 17-for-19 in save opportunities with a 2.70 ERA for the Rangers this year. He missed all of 2012 and the first half of 2013 following his second career Tommy John surgery. It's unclear if Soria will replace Nathan as closer or fill another role, but, either way, he's a big upgrade for the Tigers. His contract includes an affordable $7 million club option for 2015.
The 20-year-old Thompson was Detroit's second round pick in the 2012 draft. He has a 3.13 ERA with an 8.2 K/9 in 17 starts and 89 innings this summer, with 16 starts at High Class-A and one at Double-A. Baseball America ranked Thompson as the team's fifth best prospect before the season, calling him "a potential mid-rotation starter."
Knebel, 22, made his MLB debut a few weeks ago and has allowed seven runs in 8 2/3 big league innings. He has a 1.26 ERA and an 11.8 K/9 in 64 1/3 minor league innings since being the 39th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Baseball America ranked Knebel as the club's seventh best prospect before the season and said he's "a potential closer."
The Tigers are currently 56-42 with a nice 6.5-game lead in the AL Central, though the bullpen was an obvious problem. They could still add another reliever before next week's trade deadline. The Rangers have the worst record in baseball at 40-61 and figure to move more players in the coming days.