JThere are two other teams that I would like to speculate on. The first is the Texas Rangers and the second will be the Washington Nationals.
The Texas have made news recently, first for their rumored interest in K-Rod and then later when they denied having interest. Even more recently the Rangers have stated that they would be interested in upgrading their bullpen, but that they are currently content in what they have.
Texas is currently 21 of 33 in converting their save opportunities. Neftali Feliz has stabled after a rough, but Arthur Rhodes and David Bush have both struggled and the bullpen has definitely been a weakness for a Rangers squad that has hopes of reaching the World Series again in 2011.
Another reason that I believe the Rangers would be interested in Joakim Soria is that by acquiring an elite closer they could move Feliz to the rotation, something that they desperately wanted to do last Spring. They probably wouldn't move Feliz to the rotation this year should they acquire Soria, but the move would give their bullpen a huge boost and allow them to move Feliz for good next Spring.
Looking at what the Rangers could offer I could see it play out in a few different ways. But what the Rangers do have that the Royals would for sure covet is near Major League ready pitching. They also have a young shortstop by the name of Jurickson Profar that I would imagine the Royals would love to get their hands on.
First let's just refresh ourselves on Jurickson Profar:
Profar is well known for leading Curacao to the 2004 Little League World Series Championship. Profar has true five tool potential. He entered the season rated as the number 74 prospect by Baseball America and has done nothing to hurt that position. As an eighteen year old he has hit .268/.379/.491 line in the pitcher friendly Midwest League.
The Royals have worked hard to improve their organization depth at shortstop and with Escobar beginning to show that he could hit at the Major League level, the desire for Profar could be a bit less among Royals fans. However, if the Royals can nab Profar it would be a huge gain for this organization and he could become the star of the second wave of prospects making their way to Kansas City.
Here is a look at those pitching prospects:
Martin Perez- A lefty that entering the season ranked number twenty-four on Baseball America's top 100 ranking. Perez is also the top prospect in the Rangers system. He owns a career 3.97 era, and has posted 8.8 Ks per 9 innings to 3.5 walks. This season he is 4-2 with a 3.28 era.
Perez is only twenty years old. His fastball sits in the low 90s. He also has a very good changeup with life and a curveball that could also develop into a plus offering. He has shown improved command in 2011. The Royals were very interested in Perez the last time the two teams discussed a trade involving a star pitcher going to Texas and he seemed to be off limits. I am not sure if the Rangers would part ways with him now.
Tanner Scheppers- If the Royals wanted to add a high upside Major League ready starter this may be their guy. Since signing with Texas, Scheppers has done nothing but dominate when it comes to his peripheral numbers. In 107.2 career minor league innings he owns a 123:43 strikeout to walk rate.
Scheppers is a 6-4, righty that can dial up his fastball into the upper 90s when need be. He also displays a plus curveball and slider at times and has even showed a sinker that he throws in the low 90s. Scheppers is high upside starter, but like Royals reliever Aaron Crow he could probably immediately be a top flight reliever as well.
Robert Erlin- Rumors are that when the Royals were shopping Zack Greinke, Robert Erlin was a name that repeatedly came up in negotiations with the Texas Rangers. Erlin is a twenty-year-old left hander that so far has averaged about 10 Ks to every 1 walk in his minor league career. He boasts a 13-5 record with a 2.58 era.
Erlin isn't as far along as Perez or Scheppers, but he doesn't lack polish. It is his supreme command that has allowed him to move as quickly as he has and to command each of his pitches as well as he does. He throws a fastball in the low 90s, a curveball, and a changeup with good fading action.
Michael Kirkman- Kirkman like Erlin was also rumored to be a part of the package that the Royals were asking for in a Greinke to Texas trade. Kirkman has a low 90s fastball, a plus slider, and an average curveball and changeup. I believe that Kirkman would be a fine third piece to a deal, however I don't see enough upside in his numbers or scouting reports to believe that he could be a part of a two prospect deal.
Robert Ross- Ross is another guy that I would love see the Royals nab in a Soria deal, should the Rangers not want to trade any of the top three guys and instead want to trade a couple of the second teir guys along with Profar. Ross is a short twenty-two year old lefty that is currently dominated the Carolina League. He has a career 3.10 era in 304.2 minor league innings.
Ross has a fastbal that hits up to 93 on the gun, but can be a devastating pitch due to the tremendous life he gets on it. The fastball moves so much and in so many different ways that it can be difficult for catchers to receive the pitch. He also has a good slider and a shows potential for a good change up as well. He has a good deceptive delivery that makes him even more effective. Ross is a great kid and a hard worker and like I said, I'd love to see him join the KC organization.
Neil Ramirez- Ramirez's stock has skyrocketed in 2011 as he has made the jump from low-A all the way to triple-A where he has more than held his own. This season he has a 3.80 era while averaging 10 Ks per 9 innings. He is twenty-two years old and is a former first round pick.
His fastball normally is in the low 90s, but he can dial it up to 95. His curveball has regained its form as a top tier offering. His changeup is an average offering. He probably belongs in the Perez and Scheppers group, but given his low prospect status entering the season the Royals might be able to get a bit of a steal here. Who knows.
In order for a deal to work out between the two clubs the Rangers and Royals would have to solve their ill feelings after the Greinke deal couldn't be reached. It could be a good opportunity for both clubs to improve and move forward. In my opinion for the Royals to make the deal they would need either Profar and two of the pitchers. Or they would need two out of Perez, Scheppers, and Erlin plus a lower level prospect to make the deal. I may be asking for to much, but that is the position I believe the Royals should take.
Later today I will try to get up my thoughts on what the Nationals would be willing to offer and if they would make sense as a destination. After that I should be done speculating on Soria and the Royals potential trade partners.