For the second straight offseason, the Texas Rangers bought low on a reliever following Tommy John surgery. This year, their man of choice was former Royals closer Joakim Soria, who agreed to a two-year deal with the club that will reportedly pay him between $8 and $9 million. Last winter, the Rangers signed former Twins closer Joe Nathan to a two-year deal after Nathan missed all of the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery and struggled in 2011.
With relievers Koji Uehara and Mike Adams both hitting the free agent market, the Rangers needed to do something to rebuild their bullpen a bit. Soria seems like the perfect fit as a guy who misesd all of the 2012 season following Tommy John surgery this spring, and at the reported salary, they'll pay him less over the next two years than the Royals would have paid him in each 2013 and 2014 if they had exercised the club options on his existing contract.
Prior to 2011, Soria was one of the best and brightest young closers in baseball, routinely blazing his low-90s fastball past hitters and while not walking very many hitters at all. But in 2011, Soria began to struggle, seeing his ERA for the year climb north of 4.00 thanks to a spike in homer rate. He didn't throw at all last season following his surgery, and might not be ready for Opening Day for the Rangers, who are suddenly in a competitive AL West after the A's knocked them off of their perch at the top of the division this October and the Angels in a state of constant competition with their relatively young, star-laden roster.
The Rangers pitching staff remains chock-full of question marks this offseason, even after the signing of Soria. In addition to the impending departures of Uehara and Adams, Scott Feldman signed with the Cubs, Ryan Dempster and Roy Oswalt are both free agents, and Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz are both recovering from Tommy John surgery last season. Along with Nathan at the back-end of games, the Texas bullpen still features Alexi Ogando and Robbie Ross, and their rotation is still stout at the top with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland. There's still a lot of work to do for Jon Daniels when it comes to rebuilding his pitching staff, but Soria is a good start, albeit one that adds even more questions to the staff.