ARLINGTON -- Joakim Soria said he signed with the Rangers because he wanted a place to pitch. He was a closer for five seasons for the Royals but understands that might not be his role with the Rangers. Joe Nathan is the Rangers' closer for 2013 and possibly '14 if the club picks up his option. That seems to be fine with Soria, although he still entertains hopes of being a closer again at some point in his career. "This is baseball," Soria said. "I just love to play baseball. I don't mind if I'm the setup reliever. The goal is to win the championship."
Nathan is in the second season of a two-year, $14.75 million contract. The Rangers also have a club option on the right-hander for $9 million for 2014, with a $750,000 buyout. Nathan also has the option of getting out of his '14 contract while forfeiting both salary and buyout if he finishes at least 38 games this season. Nathan, who turned 38 in November, pitched in 66 games for the Rangers in 2012, going 3-5 with a 2.80 ERA and 37 saves in 40 chances. He also set a club record with 31 straight successful save opportunities and was selected to the All-Star team for the fifth time in his career. But if Soria is healthy, he gives the Rangers a backup closer on days when Nathan is unavailable. Alexi Ogando, who is moving to the rotation, had three saves last season, while Mike Adams, Tanner Scheppers and Koji Uehara each had one on days when Nathan needed a break. Soria, 28, had 160 saves as the Royals' closer from 2007-11 before missing all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 3. He was an All-Star in '08 and '10. "I think you talk to any of us and it's not about where we pitch, it's about being able to compete and try and help this club out," Nathan said. "Any time you've got a guy that's a late-inning guy that's had success [is a good thing], and obviously with Soria, he's as good as it gets when he's healthy. Hopefully, he can get back to himself sooner rather than later and give us that depth that you need in the bullpen, especially if you're planning on playing late into the season and into the postseason." Soria needs to get healthy as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Right now, he is throwing on flat ground for about 18 minutes. He won't throw off a mound until the end of February, and he is not expected to pitch in a Major League game until the end of May. "It's going good, but right now we're just looking to put the strength back in my arm," Soria said. "The doctors will decide when I go back on a mound, maybe the end of February. We'll see." When he is healthy, Soria is expected to be the Rangers' primary eighth-inning setup reliever. But there is no doubt Soria wants to be a closer again, and his incentive-laden contract is built toward him being a closer as early as the 2014 season if Nathan does not return. Soria's unusually complicated contract, agreed to at the Winter Meetings, calls for a $2 million base salary in 2013 and a $5.5 million base salary in '14. The Rangers also have a $7 million option on Soria for '15, with a $500,000 option. Soria's long list of incentive clauses and salary increases begins with a $500,000 bonus in 2013 if he is on the active roster for just one day. But that's just the beginning. His 2014 salary can increase from $100,000 to $1 million more depending on how many "games finished" he has in '13. Games finished is a statistic used in incentive clauses for closers. Soria's base salary for '14 increases by $100,000 if he finishes 10 games in '13. He gets another $100,000 each on his '14 contract for 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 60, 65 and 70 games finished in '13. That's a maximum increase of $1 million. Soria's option and buyout for 2015 can also increase depending on how many games finished he has in '13 and '14. If Soria has 55 games finished in '14 or 100 games finished between '13-14, then his '15 salary goes up to $8 million and his buyout goes up to $750,000. Most of Soria's incentive clauses in 2013 are based on games pitched, which is customary for a setup reliever. Soria gets $100,000 if he pitches in 30 games, another $50,000 for 35 games, $75,000 for 40 games, $75,000 for 45 games, $75,000 for 50 games, $75,000 for 55 games, $100,000 for 60 games and $100,000 for 65 games. That would be a total of $650,000 if he pitches in 65 games. But Soria would also do well if he ends up as the Rangers' closer in 2013. He would get $100,000 for 10 games finished, and another $100,000 each for every five more games he finishes -- up to a maximum of 40 games and $700,000. His '14 incentives are all tied to games finished as opposed to games pitched. Soria gets $100,000 for 10 games finished and another $100,000 for 15, 20 and 25 games finished. He gets an extra $150,000 each for 30, 35 and 40 games finished, $200,000 for 45 and 50 games finished and $250,000 for 60 games finished. That is a total of $1.3 million in incentives in '14 based solely on games finished. Soria can earn an extra $1 million in incentives in 2015 based on games finished. He gets $250,000 for 45 games finished and another $250,000 for 50, 55 and 60 games finished.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.