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Royals' Soria happy to be aboard

Hey, at least somebody still to wants to pitch for Kansas City. Bob Dutton on the Royals' Pitcher of the Year:

    “I’m still young,” Soria said, “and I think I’m a piece of what they want to do with this team. I think it’s a good idea to rebuild the team, and they’ve been doing great work with the minor-league system.”

    Greinke voiced frustration at times this season at the prospect of working through a rebuilding plan that is only now starting to bear fruit. That stemmed, perhaps in part to his contract status: Greinke is bound to the Royals only through the 2012 season.

    In contrast, Soria’s long-term deal, signed in May 2008, contains club-friendly options that extend through 2014. And club officials make it clear: Soria is the closest things the Royals have to an “untouchable” in trade talks.

    “I think it’s going to be good,” Soria said. “I’m part of the Royals’ family. I’m glad to be here, and I’m proud to be here.”

As most of you know, I used to love the Kansas City Royals, and be obsessed with them. There's probably still some love, deep within my dark heart. But the obsession ended some years ago. To this day, though, if I'm monitoring the scoreboard and I see the Royals have a small lead heading into the ninth inning, I'll flip to that game just because it's such a pleasure to watch Soria work.

He's also really, really, really good.

With 115 saves over the last three seasons, Soria's one of only seven major leaguers with at least 100. He and Mariano Rivera are the only two with more than 100 saves and an ERA below 2 (Jonathan Papelbon's No. 3 on the ERA list, and he's closer to 3 than 2). Soria's also second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (behind Rivera, who's in a class by himself) and essentially tied with everyone else in terms of home runs allowed.

I think you could make a pretty good chase that Joakim Soria has been the second-best reliever in the majors over the last three seasons. And further, that he might move to No. 1 over the next three seasons, given the possibility that Rivera will actually turn into a normal human being at some point.

Having said all that, I also think it's foolish to not at least explore the possibility of trading him for a young shortstop. Or a second baseman or an outfielder. Soria's fantastic, but he's good for two or three extra wins per season. Meanwhile, there are some hitters in the pipeline but maybe not enough. There are pitchers in the pipeline, too ... and I'll bet at least one of them is fine closer material.

Anyway, the Royals aren't going to trade Soria. And that's fine, too. It's nice to have someone who's almost a sure thing, and who actually wants to be there. Which makes me wonder if starters tend to take losing harder than reliefers. Sabermetrics or no, the Royals' lousiness makes Zack Greinke look bad; despite a 3.82 career ERA, Greinke's got a losing record. Last year, despite posting one of the more impressive ERAs in recent memory, Greinke won only 16 of his 33 starts.

The closer, though? Soria's saved almost exactly as many games as Rivera and Papelbon. The thing that he's famous for doing, he can do exactly as well with the Royals as he could with any other team, however excellent.

I'm sure that Soria would love to pitch for a great team. I just doubt if the losses rankle him quite so much as they would if he were pitching the first inning instead of the ninth.