Reports, including one here via Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, have circulated the past few days of the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs discussing a trade that would send left fielder Alfonso Soriano back to the Bronx, where his career began in the early 2000s. With Soriano apparently naming New York on a list of clubs for which he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause, the deal could be completed before next week’s non-waiver trade deadline.
The 37-year-old Soriano has a triple-slash line of .254/.287/.467 this season, to go along with 17 home runs. Though his numbers pale in comparison to what he accomplished in his prime, the righty slugger would represent a clear upgrade over much what’s presently disguising itself as a Yankee lineup. Compared with the current regulars, he’d rank second in homers and slugging percentage.
It’s no secret that the Yankees need offense. Their 3.92 runs per game rank 12th in the American league, while their .680 OPS and their 88 home runs rank 14th. New York’s right-handed hitters have been particularly anemic, with a .594 OPS. The team’s left fielders have been almost as unproductive, posting an OPS of just .600.
Soriano is better than what the Yankees have. His .341 wOBA vs. left-handed pitchers would help, but it’s hard to believe that the 15-year vet would be a season-changing acquisition.
The Yankees would not be trading for the same Alfonso Soriano who slugged 77 home runs while manning second base for the team in 2002 and 2003, or for the player who became baseball’s fourth-ever 40-40 man in 2006.
Soriano has been largely a disappointment in Chicago since signing an eight-year contract worth $136 million prior to the 2007 season. His 100 wRC+ in 2011 and 2013 suggests that he’s been a league-average hitter in two of the last three seasons, while his once prolific base-stealing skills are no longer a factor in his game. Soriano’s 3.9 percent walk rate and his 23.2 percent strikeout rate are a less-than-perfect fit on a club that’s historically prided itself on patient hitting and working counts.
Over the past two-plus seasons, Yankee GM Brian Cashman’s strategy for acquiring new players has centered on bargain-shopping and scrap-heap-sifting, with varying success.
New York has sought after older free agents willing to accept one-year deals, like Kevin Youkilis, Raul Ibanez and Travis Hafner. Their trade targets have been guys who don’t require much of a return, like Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells. The logic has been that, with a strong core in place, the Yankees would need lesser contributions from these players than their previous teams…that, when asked, they could recall some inkling of their former abilities.
Presumably, the Cubs would deal Soriano for non-prospect system-filler types, and would pick up a large chunk of the $24 million still owed to the outfielder. He’d fall in line with the players above, who were cheap and low-risk for New York.
Unfortunately for Cashman, the Yankees are now dealing with a different problem than what they’re used to. With a roster decimated by injury—Mark Teixeira done for the season and the return dates of Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez mired in mystery—the team is in need of impact bats, not just peripheral role players. Dumpster-diving alone won’t illuminate their slowly fading playoff hopes.
If the Yankees are in, they should be all in. That doesn’t mean pass on Soriano—he can certainly help—but more moves need to be made, even if it means dealing off one or more upper-echelon prospects, who aren’t so upper-echelon by the standards of the rest of baseball. A right-handed-hitting first baseman is an epic need, as is a third baseman who can handle a bat and a starting-caliber catcher.
Alfonso Soriano would be a decent place to start for the Yankees this trade deadline, but he won’t do enough to fill a cupboard that’s incredibly bare.
Advanced stats via FanGraphs.