Royals sign Soria to three-year guaranteed extension with three additional option years

MIAMI | When it comes to birthday presents, Royals closer Joakim Soria isn’t likely ever to get one better than this.

The Royals and Soria reached agreement Saturday on a six-year contract agreement that runs through 2014. The deal is believed to include $8 million in guaranteed money over the next three seasons with club options for 2012-2014 that could boost the total value to $32 million.

It’s safe to say Soria should be in a celebratory mood today when he turns 24.

The deal was announced Saturday during the Royals’ game against the Florida Marlins at Dolphin Stadium. It is the club’s first multiyear contract with a non-free agent since Dayton Moore became general manager on May 30, 2006.

“You evaluate a couple of different things,” Moore said. “Obviously, there’s the ability. What they’ve done and what you project them to do.

“In these types of deals, you look at the type of person they are — their work ethic and the type of teammates they are. You look at all of those factors and we felt very good about signing him for the long term.”

Soria is making $426,500 this year in his second big-league season. The new deal offers removes the possibility of salary arbitration after 2009 and 2010. It also offers the possibility for the Royals to avoid a third year of arbitration and up to two years of free-agent eligibility.

The deal’s total value, including option years, projects as roughly $30 million if Soria remains a reliever. It includes about $2 million in accelerator clauses if he becomes a starting pitcher.

Oddly, the deal announcement came one day after Soria surrendered his first runs of the season in Friday’s 7-6 victory over the Marlins in the series opener. He gave up a two-run homer in the ninth to Jeremy Hermida before gaining his 11th save in 11 chances.

Afterward, Soria was nonplussed at the end of his scoreless streak — in part, perhaps, because he knew he was about to secure his future.

“It was going to happen sooner or later,” Soria said. “I’m not perfect. That’s baseball. All that matters is we got the win, and I got the save.”

The deal follows a growing industry trend by clubs to lock in young players to long-term deals. Soria is the 25th player since Jan. 1 to sign a multi-year extension when he was still at least two years shy of free-agent eligibility.

The Marlins, earlier Saturday, signed shortstop Hanley Ramirez to a six-year extension for $70 million.

Soria could be the first of several Royals in line for multiyear extensions if there club is to success in keeping its youthful core intact. Possibilities include Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon, Brian Bannister, Billy Butler and John Buck.

“It’s not something I would ever discuss publicly,” Moore said. “We think we have a lot of very good young players. We deal with them as we move forward.”

The Royals acquired Soria in December 2006 from San Diego in the Rule 5 draft. He was 2-3 with 17 saves and a 2.48 ERA last season in 62 games. He carried a 1.04 ERA in Saturday’s game with 11 saves through 18 appearances.

“No matter how much I say,” manager Trey Hillman said, “I’m still going to understate (his importance). He’s very consistent. He’s very calm.

“For the comfort level of our club, I think it helps us overall to have a guy who takes the mound in that situation be a calm guy rather than a guy who has a lot of moving parts and has “Wild Thing” playing on the speakers.”

Soria opened the season with 16 1/3 scoreless innings — just two-thirds of an inning shy of the club record by Hipolito Pichardo in 1997.

“It was way too soon to look at that stuff,” Soria said, echoing a view he often expressed while building the streak. “I don’t think about that when I got out there. I just try to help my team.”

Soria actually retired the first hitter Friday but, officially, the streak still ends at 16 1/3 innings. Major League rules require a pitcher complete the inning without yielding a run in order to extend a scoreless streak.

Hermida’s homer was just the second extra-base hit against him and also broke a zero-for-23 streak by left-handed hitters.

Soria remains just one of six closers with at least seven save opportunities yet to blow one. His 11-for-11 success also matches the club record to start a season. Al Hrabosky opened 1978 with 11 in a row before blowing opportunity No. 12.

So there’s still a streak to monitor, along with a lot more dollar signs.

Closers: Still perfect in save opportunities

(Through Friday)

Joe Nathan, Twins, 13 for 13

Joakim Soria, Royals, 11 for 11

Mariano Rivera, Yankees, 11 for 11

Brad Lidge, Phillies, 10 for 10

Matt Capps, Pirates, 9 for 9

B.J. Ryan, Blue Jays, 7 for 7

Royals’ closers: Perfect at the start

Pitcher, year, successful saves to start a season

Joakim Soria*, 2008, 11

Al Hrabosky, 1978, 11

Mike MacDougal, 2003, 10

Steve Farr, 1989, 10

Steve Mingori, 1976, 10

* Through Friday