NEW YORK — The first-place Detroit Tigers reinforced the back end of their shaky bullpen Wednesday night, acquiring closer Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers for pitching prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson.
The trade was completed during Texas’ rain-shortened 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees. Soria said he was informed of the pending deal during the delay, and the Rangers announced the move after the game.
By the time Soria spoke to reporters in the clubhouse, all his Rangers jerseys had been removed from his locker.
“I’m going to a new team. It’s going to be my new family. I’m going to do whatever they want me to do,” Soria said. “I just want to help them win the World Series. That’s what it’s all about, and I hope I can help out as much as I can.”
Soria is 1-3 with a 2.70 ERA and 17 saves in 19 chances during his first full season since 2011. Detroit has been looking to upgrade a relief corps that ranked 12th out of 15 American League teams with a 4.37 ERA.
“It’s a great team. It’s a contending team,” said Soria, a two-time All-Star with Kansas City. “I’m going to talk to them and see what’s going on when I get there. I know they’re going to Anaheim, so I’ll probably go there.”
Soria moves from the last-place Rangers to the AL Central-leading Tigers and gets reunited with Joe Nathan, the closer he replaced in Texas this season. Nathan, who was with the Rangers from 2012-13, has a 5.89 ERA and 20 saves in 25 tries this year for Detroit.
Texas signed Soria to an $8 million, two-year contract before last season as he was recovering from his second Tommy John surgery. The deal included a $7 million club option for 2015 with a $500,000 buyout.
“I’m very grateful to this organization. They helped me a lot when I was hurt,” Soria said. “They picked me up and they gave me a chance to come back and be a major league pitcher again. I’m grateful to them and I wish them the best. I hope that this trade helps them in the future.”
The 22-year-old Knebel had a 6.23 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Tigers this season. The Rangers said he will be optioned to Triple-A Round Rock, and Thompson will be assigned to Double-A Frisco.
Knebel was 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA and three saves in 25 combined relief outings with Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season. The right-hander was drafted 39th overall by the Tigers out of the University of Texas in 2013 and has averaged 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 56 minor league games.
The 20-year-old Thompson is 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA combined in 16 starts for Class-A Lakeland and two with Double-A Erie this season. The right-hander was selected out of a Texas high school in the second round of the 2012 draft and has 208 strikeouts in 205 2-3 minor league innings.
Both pitchers were signed by Tigers scout Tim Grieve, son of former Rangers player, general manager and current broadcaster Tom Grieve.