Matt Garza was just shipped out of Chicago (to the Texas Rangers), and he may not be the last big name to be dealt by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Gorden Wittenmeyer of the Chicago-Sun Times reports that Alfonso Soriano could be the next to go and that the New York Yankees are a team desperately in need of his services.
The Yankees have been putrid offensively this season, averaging just 3.95 runs per game and failing to support a pitching staff that has actually performed pretty well. The lack of impact bats like Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter is certainly at the crux of the problem, but the inconsistencies of the players in place has also contributed to the team's worst offense in years.
Reports, such as Joel Sherman of the New York Post, say that Travis Hafner could be cut if he doesn't begin to pick up the slack (which doesn't seem likely given his recent performance), so the Yankees could be in need for a full-time designated hitter.
Soriano could be exactly what the Yankees are looking for.
A Yankee from 1999-2003, Soriano was a spark plug for the Yankees of the early 2000s. He was far from an outstanding fielder at second base, but his skills on offense made him one of the most prolific leadoff men in baseball.
His best season came in 2002, a year that saw him fall just one home run short of the exclusive 40-40 club. He hit 39 homers, stole 41 bases, drove in 102 runs and posted a slash line of .300/.332/.547. He led the league in steals, hits (209), runs (128), plate appearances (741) and at-bats (696). That led to a third-place finish in the American League MVP voting.
Since then, he has made stops with the Texas Rangers, the Washington Nationals and the Cubs. After three straight seasons of mediocrity in Chicago between 2009 and 2011, Soriano revived his career with a strong 2012 campaign. He hit .262/.322/.499 with 32 home runs and 108 RBI.
He's performed well this season, as well, making him a prime candidate to be dealt by July 31. His line isn't great (.259/.289/.476), but he has hit 17 home runs and driven in 51. Soriano could bring excitement and pop to the middle of a lineup lacking both.
Not to mention the spark it could potentially bring back to a fanbase that is dredging through one of the team's most disappointing seasons in recent memory. Fans were ecstatic to acquire Alex Rodriguez prior to the 2004 season, but that didn't stop the fact that trading a dynamic player like Soriano was a huge blow. The Yankees were lucky to strike gold with Robinson Cano just over two seasons later in 2005, but losing Soriano was difficult nonetheless.
The Yankees could get lucky and not have to give up much for Soriano, a player scheduled to finish his eight-year, $136 million deal after the 2014 season. Because he's not the kind of player to justify that contract any longer (and the debate is ongoing as to whether or not he ever was), the Cubs will have to pick up a significant chunk of the remaining money ($18 million next season and the remaining money from this season).
If the Cubs pick up $12 million-plus, then the Yankees could be inclined to make a deal. Phil Hughes could be a part of the package, as that would offer Chicago salary relief, but Epstein and Hoyer could seek prospects in return.
Is Soriano worth acquiring?
Top prospects Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez and Mark Montgomery shouldn't even be mentioned in the deal, though next-level guys like Slade Heathcott, Jose Ramirez, Jose Campos and J.R. Murphy could be tossed around.
I say Heathcott and a lower-level prospect or two should be plenty to get him, though we'll just have to see how this plays itself out.
Acquiring Soriano could seem like a bold move for a team that is currently sitting in fourth-place in the AL East, but general manager Brian Cashman has never been known for being a seller. Look for him to do something before the clock strikes 4:00 PM on July 31.