The Rangers found success in 2012 when they gave Joe Nathan, in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, a two-year contract that saw him add about two wins of value over replacement in its first year, with 65 innings of a 2.80 ERA. They're taking a slightly higher risk by signing Joakim Soria to a reported two-year deal that includes his first year back after surgery, but the dollars are lower and Soria actually was a little better than Nathan before their respective operations, making this a good deal for Texas that could turn out to be outstanding.
Soria was remarkably consistent in the five years between his surprise selection in the 2006 Rule 5 draft (the last under the old collective bargaining agreement) and his injury in 2012, pitching 60 to 69 innings in four of those seasons, never walking more than 18 men or fewer than 15 unintentionally. Soria has distinguished himself from some other relievers because he always has pitched a lot like a starter, establishing his fastball early and mixing in various other pitches. In 2011, he showed four offspeed pitches but still got most of his swings and misses on a four-seamer and his cutter, all while throwing a ton of strikes.
The Rangers have enough bullpen parts to avoid overworking Soria in his first year back from what was his second career Tommy John surgery, and if Tanner Scheppers can improve his fastball command and stay healthy, he'll give them even more flexibility to give Soria extra rest. Soria can handle setup duty for Nathan this year and, if his recovery is successful, take over the ninth inning in 2014.
This has to be a disappointing coda for Royals fans who got to enjoy watching Soria for five years but never saw the club try to convert him to the rotation or cash him in for more valuable long-term assets than a 60-inning-a-year reliever. The Royals are looking everywhere for starting pitching help, and it's hard to avoid thinking about what opportunity they lost to add even one potential starter prospect had they moved Soria two or three years ago. And while the Dodgers' money supply appears to be infinite, it's really looking like they overpaid badly for Brandon League when they jumped to sign him before free agency got under way.