BALTIMORE -- The Tigers once expected to be contending at this point, with Joakim Soria following David Price on game day. This wasn't what they had they mind.
While the Tigers readied for their series opener against the Orioles -- a 9-8 Detroit victory at Camden Yards on Thursday night -- Soria followed Price out of town. The Tigers traded their closer to the Pirates for shortstop prospect JaCoby Jones in a one-for-one swap.
The move gives the Pirates a setup arm to carry leads to closer Mark Melancon while continuing Detroit's "reboot" ahead of Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Like Price, Soria is a free agent at season's end, and was expected to draw some of the strongest interest in a market where bullpen help is a popular item.
By contrast, the Tigers are not a team in need of middle-infield depth. Detroit has done more work trading middle-infield prospects over the years, including Devon Travis to Toronto for Anthony Gose last November and Eugenio Suarez to Cincinnati for Alfredo Simon last December.
In Jones' case, the athlete and the hitter were more important than the position.
"It's a situation where we get a really good young middle infielder in our organization in exchange for Joakim," general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He has the flexibility to play other positions. He does have some athletic flexibility. He runs well, too. He's a big shortstop."
Jones was a third-round Draft pick in 2013 out of LSU, and hit .288 with 23 homers and 17 stolen bases in 117 games at Class A West Virginia last year. This year, the 23-year-old hit .260 (101-for-389) with 18 doubles, 10 homers and 60 RBIs between Class A Advanced Bradenton and Double-A Altoona.
Jones will stay at the Double-A level, playing shortstop at Erie for now.
"We can evaluate that," Dombrowski said, "but I don't know with our present shortstop situation. We'll just let that play out, but he does have some versatility. He's got enough bat to play other positions and be a real good athlete, real good player."
Once the Tigers notified clubs Wednesday that they would be sellers at the Deadline, Dombrowski said, a handful of clubs expressed interest in Soria, who has a limited no-trade clause that gives him veto power on deals to the Yankees, Mets and Blue Jays. Once the Tigers finished trading Price, they got to work Thursday with Pittsburgh on Soria.
"This was one we went back and forth on today with a couple other clubs," he said.
Right-hander Alex Wilson will serve as the Tigers' interim closer, notching his first career save Thursday with a scoreless 1 2/3 innings.
Soria returns to the role in which he began the season. He came out of Spring Training as the Tigers' setup man until Joe Nathan suffered what became a season-ending elbow injury. Soria saved 23 games in 26 chances for the Tigers, including a trio of four-out saves to help out an otherwise beleaguered bullpen.
The 31-year-old Soria joined the Tigers ahead of last year's Trade Deadline in a deal with Texas that netted the Rangers prospects Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson. Knebel was traded to Milwaukee soon afterwards, while Thompson was to be included in the package going to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.