As expected, Kansas City Royals closer Joakim Soria’s original diagnosis of a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow was confirmed. Soria and the Royals consulted with a trio of doctors, (in)famous surgeons Lewis Yocum and James Andrews as well as Kansas City’s medical staff. With the ruling now official, the Royals have announced that Soria has elected to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Thought still only 27, this will be Soria’s second Tommy John rodeo. The closer originally underwent the procedure as a member of the Dodgers organization in 2003. Soria is expected to be out 10-14 months.
Since he was taken in the Rule-5 Draft by the Royals in 2006, Soria has developed into one of the game’s best closers. Since taking over KC’s closer role in the summer of 2007, Soria has saved 160 games for the Royals while maintaining an impressive ERA and WHIP of 2.40 and 1.043.
Soria finds himself in the final guaranteed year of his contract. Kansas City holds $8 and $8.75 million options for the 2013-14 seasons that include $750,000 buyouts.
With Soria out for the season, the Royals have to decide who their ninth inning arm is going to be. While Soria isn’t something that’s easily replaced, Kansas City does have a pair of viable alternatives that they feel have ability to slide into the club’s closer role; Greg Holland and Jonathan Broxton.
Manager Ned Yost told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that he’s undecided on who will be his closer next season. Yost said both Broxton and Holland have been throwing well this spring, and that he’s going to give the competition a bit more time to play out.
Though only a year apart in age, Broxton is much more experienced than Holland. The 27-year-old tallied 84 saves over his seven seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Broxton also sports a career ERA and WHIP of 3.19 and 1.232 over his 392 innings pitched at the major league level.
Still, Holland turned in the better 2011 season, posting a 1.80 ERA and 0.933 WHIP over his 60 innings pitched. Holland saved four games for the Royals last season while maintaining impressive marks of 11.1 SO/9 and 2.9 BB/9.
All things equal, Broxton’s experience and current salary of $4 million, that’s approximately 10 times the amount of Holland’s, would seem to make him the favorite to take over as KC’s closer.
For more on the Royals, be sure to check out Kings of Kauffman.