Another domino fell in the active and fruitful relief pitcher trade market on Wednesday night, with Rangers closer Joakim Soria heading to the Tigers for right-handed pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel.
The Padres got a nice haul from the Angels last week for Huston Street and Soria didn’t come cheap either. Thompson was a second-round pick in 2012 out of a high school in Heath, Texas and boasts a 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 203/69 K/BB ratio in 200 2/3 career innings between rookie ball and Double-A Erie. He doesn’t turn 21 years old until January. Knebel was a competitive-balance-round pick (39th overall) in 2013 out of the University of Texas at Austin and made his major league debut in Detroit earlier this season. The 22-year-old owns a dominant 1.26 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 84/27 K/BB ratio in 64 1/3 career minor league innings.
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Now let’s get to the fantasy implications …
1. Soria will be in a setup role ... initially
The Tigers announced soon after finalizing the three-player trade that veteran Joe Nathan will remain the club’s closer. But that doesn’t seem likely to last long. Nathan has posted a rough 5.89 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 36 2/3 innings this season at the age of 39 and he’s blown five saves in 25 opportunities. The signs of decline have been there all year. Soria, 30, had a 2.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 42/4 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings for Texas. By the pitching metric FIP (fielding independent pitching), Soria has been the best reliever in the majors in 2014.
2. Rangers turn back to familiar ninth-inning man
There’s been no official announcement from Texas management, but Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wrote late Wednesday night that 26-year-old right-hander Neftali Feliz will “in the short term” have “a chance to once again establish himself as an elite closer.” If it doesn’t work out, the last-place (40-61) Rangers can try a few different options -- Shawn Tolleson being one. Feliz underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in 2012 and is struggling to regain the filthy raw stuff that made him such a lauded pitching prospect in his youth, but he has registered a promising 2.61 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 10 1/3 innings of relief since returning to Texas’ active roster on July 4. He’s worth a try in all standard fantasy leagues, even as the Rangers limp to the finish line in 2014.