Joakim Soria reportedly clears waivers; Jason Vargas could return in September

Royals relief pitcher Joakim Soria
Royals relief pitcher Joakim Soria

Royals reliever Joakim Soria has cleared waivers, according to a report Thursday from Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball. The procedural move would allow Soria to be traded to any team this month, despite the non-waiver trade deadline passing on Aug. 1. Still, a trade would appear extremely remote.

As a matter of procedure, teams can place any player on revocable waivers after the trade deadline. If a player clears waivers, he is able to be traded to any team. But if he is claimed during the waiver process, the original team can revoke the waiver request and retain the player. Soria, 32, was not claimed by any of the other 29 major-league teams.

In the first season of a three-year, $25 million contract, Soria has posted a 4.03 ERA while striking out 52 batters in 51  1/3 innings. He has struggled in high-leverage situations while his command has regressed from past seasons.

His contract status would likely diminish his value in the trade market. And the Royals, of course, are now operating with a depleted bullpen while still on the fringes of the playoff race. When contacted on Thursday, Royals general manager Dayton Moore declined to comment on the matter, citing club policy.

“Whether a player cleared waivers or not, that’s not something we could comment on publicly,” Moore said.

Vargas tracking for September return

Left-hander Jason Vargas allowed two solo homers in his first rehab start for Class AA Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday. He threw 42 pitches while completing 2  1/3 innings. It was his third rehab appearance after logging two outings for the Royals’ rookie-league affiliate in Surprise, Ariz.

Vargas is returning to the mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. The timeline for a return to the major leagues is approximately 12 to 14 months, and Royals officials remain hopeful that Vargas could rejoin the Royals at some point in September.

“He’s tracking well,” Moore said. “As is the case with all the players that are coming back from injury, each phase of the rehab process is very important and crucial. So until he gets to that 75-pitch mark and can do it on a continuous basis, it’s hard to predict. All indications are he’s tracking very well.”

If Vargas does not pitch at the major-league level in 2016, the Royals would be set up to reclaim some of his $8.5 million salary through an insurance policy set up after he signed a four-year, $32 million deal before the 2014 season. But the possible insurance money does not appear to be a significant factor in the club’s decision-making regarding Vargas.

“The health and the welfare of the player are the priority in these situations,” Moore said.