- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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Over his past four active years, Joakim Soria averaged nearly 36 saves, building a reputation as one of the finest young closers in the game. In the past, the Yankees have asked the Royals about Soria in trade discussions. Now, following a season off after Tommy John elbow surgery, Soria is a free agent.
Soria, just 28, would like to close, but he would be willing to go to the Yankees to learn from his idol Mariano Rivera.
"If the Yankees call, we will be all ears," Soria's agent, Oscar Suarez, said by phone Monday. "If there is a fit, Joakim would be elated to work with Mo. He would close everywhere except there."
Suarez said Yankees GM Brian Cashman has yet to inquire. Eight other clubs, all contending teams, have already contacted Suarez about Soria. Soria could also return to Kansas City, which declined his $8 million option for next season, allowing him to become a free agent.
Suarez said that Soria will be ready for spring training, but probably won't be able to pitch in major league games until May of next season. Other reports have tabbed June as a more likely date.
Rivera has always had a high opinion of Soria and would likely love the opportunity to tutor him for a year. With Rafael Soriano expected to leave, Soria could step in to combine with David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, etc., to form a bridge to Rivera.
Then the Yankees could decide who should replace Rivera, if he does retire after next season.
At one point during his past contract, Soria had the Yankees on his no-trade list, but that was because of strategic reasons, not because he did not want to play in the Bronx.
As for the timetable, Cashman, if interested, may want to contact Suarez soon. Suarez said he is not opposed to doing a deal quickly if the right opportunity comes along.
"Joakim is not a greedy individual," Suarez said. "He wants to win so if it is (the) right situation he is probably not going to be a guy to wait until February. If he goes back to Kansas City, he loves the people and he will be part of the rebuilding process."
As for Soria's health, Suarez said, "He's going to be fine. It is not like we are dealing with a guy who is 38. He is 28."
The Yankees are dealing with a closer who is about to turn 43. So Soria could be good insurance for now and the future. Now, it is up to Cashman to call.