The Tigers have acquired closer Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for right-handed pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, Detroit announced on Wednesday night. The deal was first reported by Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com and Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com.
Soria will likely assume the closer role for the Tigers, who entered the day with the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in the American League with a 4.41 mark. Detroit has been pursuing bullpen pieces like Soria and Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies for a couple of weeks, and will receive a back-end upgrade from the Rangers when the deal becomes official.
Soria, 30, has pitched to a 2.70 ERA and earned 17 saves in 33.1 innings in his first full season since 2011. He took over the closer role in Texas in place of Joe Nathan, who coincidentally signed with the Tigers last offseason and now will be teammates with Soria once again. Nathan's struggles (5.89 ERA in 39 appearances) are one of the main reasons that the Tigers needed to acquire a bullpen arm like Soria.
Thompson, 20, was the Tigers' second round pick in the 2012 draft and was ranked by Baseball America as the organization's fourth best prospect heading into the season. He spent the entire season with High-A Lakeland before a promotion to Double-A Erie last week, and has posted a combined 6-4 record and 3.13 ERA in 17 starts (16 with Lakeland) on the year. He is viewed as a potential mid-rotation starter at the major league level, and has a fastball that can touch 95 mph as well as an above-average slider.
Knebel, 22, was the 39th overall pick in last year's draft and was ranked as the team's sixth best prospect by Baseball America before the season. He has been dominant as a reliever in the minors this season, posting a 1.20 ERA in 11 games for Double-A Erie before being promoted to Triple-A Toledo in May and posting a 1.96 ERA in 14 games since then. Knebel has a strong fastball that can top out at 98 mph in addition to a curveball with tight spin and late break, causing many to see him as a closer at the major league level.