Holiday Mailbag: Alfonso Soriano

Yankees did not make offer to Ibanez, priority is a right-handed bat
Wednesday Night Open Thread
(Brian Kersey/Getty)

Several people asked: What about Alfonso Soriano?

Soriano, 37 next month, is coming off a .262/.322/.499 (116 wRC+) line with 32 homers this past season, his best performance in about four years. He’d hit .248/.305/.463 (100 wRC+) in nearly 1,600 plate appearances from 2009-20112 until the dead cat bounce in 2012. Soriano did not benefit from BABIP luck — his .303 mark exactly matched his career average — but his HR/FB rate did spike back up to 17.8% after sitting at 12.4% from 2009-2011 (17.1% from 2006-2008). There is an explanation for that.

After opening the season with no homers and a .250/.288/.302 batting line through his first 125 plate appearances, Soriano switched to a lighter bat — 33.5 ounces to 32 ounces according to Gordon Wittenmyer — in mid-May to compensate for his age-related loss of bat speed. He hit seven homers from mid-May through the end of the month and .265/.331/.551 with all 32 of those homers in his final 490 plate appearances of the year. The lighter bat led to a big change in batted ball profile, which you can see in the day-to-day graph…

(Green = grounders, blue = fly balls, red = line drives)

After posting a ground ball rate right at 30% from 2009-2011, Soriano was hitting the ball into the ground 40-45% of the time early in the season. The ground ball rate came down and the fly ball rate went up following the change in bats, and more fly balls means more homers. Unlike many HR/FB (and therefore overall production) spikes, there’s a tangible reason why he started hitting the ball differently after mid-May.

Soriano has hit left-handers pretty well over the last three seasons (127 wRC+) and that continued this past year (117 wRC+). He’s been good enough against righties (116 wRC+ in 2012 and 105 from 2010-2012) that he’s not a straight platoon candidate. Soriano will still strike out a bunch (23.3 K% from 2010-2012) and not walk (6.2 BB% from 2010-2012 when you remove all the intentional walks), plus these days he is no longer a stolen base threat (13-for-17 in stolen base attempts from 2010-2012). Depending on your choice of defensive metric, he’s either pretty good (UZR and Total Zone) or pretty bad (DRS and FRAA) in left. Based on what I’ve seen these last few years, which admittedly isn’t a ton, I lean towards the latter.

Soriano’s contract is a nightmare, as the Cubs still owe him $18M in both 2013 and 2014. Jon Heyman recently reported Chicago is willing to pay $26M of that $36M to facilitate a trade, but only if they get a good prospect in return. If the Yankees were to swing a trade for their former second baseman, the luxury tax would only apply to whatever they’re paying Soriano. Say the Cubs eat that $26M, the luxury tax would only apply to the remaining $10M ($5M annually) assumed by New York. It wouldn’t be an $18M luxury tax hit even though he’ll actually earn that much salary.

The Yankees need both a right-handed hitting outfielder and a DH, two roles Soriano is qualified to fill at this stage of his career. Scott Hairston is likely to command a two-year, $10M deal similar to what Jonny Gomes received from the Red Sox, so the Bombers could simply sign him for the same salary as Soriano and keep their prospect(s). They’re both low-OBP, power-driven right-handed hitters, but Hairston is quite a bit younger. The lighter bat is nice, but you still have to worry that at some point Soriano just won’t be able to produce anymore given his age. More than anything else, the price will dictate if he’s a reasonable acquisition. Both the money and prospect cost has to be right since he’s a git, but not a perfect fit.

Yankees did not make offer to Ibanez, priority is a right-handed bat
Wednesday Night Open Thread
  • Jedua

    How much better is he than Melky Mesa?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Not that I’m advocating for him but, in that role, I’d take the experience.

    • Vern Sneaker

      PLEASE, NOOO!!

    • RetroRob

      Melky Mesa? The question is can Mesa hit MLB at all. Mesa is not considered a prospect by any stretch. He’s 26 next season and so far has spent seven years in the minors, originally having difficulty gaining traction a the lowest levels. A career .244/.315/.436 hitter in the minors with a .230/.271/.524 line at AAA. He he played 150 games in the Majors, wouldn’t surprise me at all if he struck out 1890+ times, and he would not be providing 40+ HRs in the process. So I would say yes, Soriano is a much more refined hitter (words I would generally never use with Soriano) and talented hitter than Mesa.

      Now, in fairness, he has shown some progression in his hitting the last few season, which is why he’s finally been bumped up to AA and then AAA. Trenton is also not the best part for RH’d power, so his numbers were probably depressed there. He’s also a good defender with a strong arm. So maybe he has some future in the majors, yet the questions remain, which is why I don’t see the Yankees basically hoping he might be able to hit MLB pitching. The need for a RH’d bat is so strong that they’ll look for someone with a track record.

      • RetroRob

        180+ times. It would greatly shock me if he struck out 1890+ times in a season!

  • OldYanksFan

    For 2/$10m, I’d be all over this.
    I honestly think being back with the Yankees would give Soriano a BIG bump in positive attitude and produxtion.

    • Upstate Yanks

      I agreed with you until I read the bottom of this article where Mike makes a good point…signing Hariston for the same amount of money and years would produce similar production and also not cost a prospect.

      Can someone please wake up the ghost of 2009 Marcus Thames

  • Pat D

    Soriano is a git? Is he related to these folks?

  • Greg

    Don’t have payroll available for either Hairston or the stub of Soriano. Get ready for Dickerson and Mostelier.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Zero Mostel-ier was a pretty funny guy back in the day.

    • Tom Swift

      Have to trade Dickerson for his right handed twin brother.

      • Vic

        His twin is Justin maxwell no? Lol

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Not an idea that has me jumping up and down, although it may allow my mother-in-law to dust off her old Sori tee. I’d worry more about his decline than I even would with Ichiro, and the prospect price would be of some concern. A fringe or squeezed-out guy (If guys like Nuno and Marshall take the next step, I could imagine Adam Warren being this type of tradebait, although I’m not advocating for that) would be fine, but I’d explore a ton of other options first.

  • Kevin Schappert

    Soriano–been there done that–didn’t particularly enjoy it

  • first name only male – Retire 21

    How many of those HR’s were on breaking balls low and away. I would venture to guess 0.

  • the other Steve S.

    Wasn’t Sori like 3 years younger than Alex when we made that trade?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Strange things happen to Dominicans in the Midwest. I’m surprised there hasn’t been further study.

  • Reggie C.

    Soriano offers enough versatility that pulling off a trade in which the organization is only responsible for $10 million definitely intrigues.

    Would Cashman do the trade if the Cubs asked for David Adams?

    • Scott

      1) You & Robinson T raise the big Q, which is whether Chicago would take a non-useless but non-elite prospect (e.g., Warren at the lower end or Adams at the higher end) — not Sanchez/Austin, but not Exicardo Cayones either. My hunch is that Cashman is asking Epstein, “gimme a list of 8 guys, any 1 of which you’d take for Soriano,” hoping that 1-2 would qualify as “not likely to have role on the Yanks soon anyway.”

      2) Just checked BBRef to confirm my recollection: Soriano has played 3B! Granted, it’s just 11 games, and 10 were over a decade ago, and he sucked (.846 fielding pct)…. [Before I get flamed: I’m kidding, of course.]

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’m actually willing to start a campaign to trade Cayones for Soriano. We can refer to him as the poor man’s Ronnie Mustellier.

        I’m not doing Adams for Soriano. Not with the fiscal C(liff)ano looming.

      • RetroRob

        If they can get $10M back on Soriano a non elite-prospect, but one who has the potential to help their team in the future, yes they go for it. Soriano is totally going to be moved and they’re going to eat a lot of the last two years. Now it’s a question of getting something back. Which ever team offers the most gets him.

  • Hoss

    I’m surprised you guys aren’t all over Brooks “Raw Dog” Conrad. Could probably lure him back from Japan for the MLB minimum. Wait, Jose Canseco is tan and rested. He could provide at least as many laughs in right as Swisher did!

  • hogsmog

    I don’t know if I’d be comfortable carrying both him and Ichiro for two years. The 2014 budget is going to be tight as is; if they both tank it would be pretty gross.

    • Hoss

      Agreed. Domestic draft going up to $15 and vendors will have to take a pay cut to maintain margins.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      With the number of potentially open spots going into 2014, I’d say there’s enough balls in play for that not to be an immediate concern. There’s all sorts of potential ways, if things don’t go as planned (and I am an optimist), things could get gross.

  • trr

    I don’t know…do u really want to give up any prospects at all? 2013 is likely to be a down year for us anyway. If we don’t give anything substantial up and the Cubs eat most of his salary, then maybe…

    • Robinson Tilapia

      That’s what we’re talking, though. Would they take a C type guy like, say, Hall or O’Brien without deciding they’d pay less of his salary?

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

    I think Soriano is a bit better than Hairston so if it’s a 2/$10 million type deal, I’d give away a B prospect like CoJo or Warren for him.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Maybe I hug Joseph more than Warren here, but I’d go Hairston before I’d go Sori.

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

        I believe you’ve mentioned in the past that you won’t lose sleep over losing guys like Tyler Clippard and George Kontos so by that reasoning, you shouldn’t over Warren since he’s very likely to end up as a middle reliever too, probably a lot closer to Kontos than Clippard.

        • Jim Is Bored

          Yeah that was exactly what he said.

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

        I also haven’t read anyone who projects CoJo to be more than a bench player so he should be pretty fungible too

        • RetroRob

          I have heard evaluators who think CoJo can hit in the majors, with the question being his glove.

          My gut, and nothing more than that, is CoJo would appeal more to Epstein/Hoyer. A lefty-hitting 2B’man with line-drive power that could develop into a 20+ HR bat, and a good eye will probably interest them more than a bullpen arm, with visions of Mark Bellhorn and 2004 dancing in their head. Conversely, Warren’s mediocre swing-and-miss rate will probably concern them since they drink from the sabermetric glass. If both are viewed as fungible, they’d probably take their shot at the guy who mas the most upside to surprise.

          That all said, I think Soriano had a dead-cat bounce season, although the lighter bat might very well have contributed. Seeing what the Yankees are looking at in 2014, I’d rater they go for Hairston and hold both Warren and CoJo. The free-agent market in 2014 doesn’t look at that good. The Yankees may be forced to go with their own.

          • Deep Thoughts

            If you trade CoJo, then Fonzie can help spell Adams at 2B next year after Cano leaves.


    • Austin Aunelowitzky

      I would do it too.

    • Now Batting

      Can the AJ Burnett trade be used at all as a comparable? Soriano had a better year before the trade, but the $ is close (Pirates paying 2/$13), AJ is younger, and pitches. They essentially gave up two nothing prospects, a 25 year old breaking into AA, and a player in A ball whom I haven’t heard anything about (correct me if I’m wrong). Based on that a prospect like CoJo or Adams sounds like an overpay.

      • Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM))

        The difference is that AJ was awful for years, meanwhile Soriano had been average for a handful of years, and above average this past year. Better player+similar contract=Better Propsects.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I don’t think that’s necessarily true. AJ was shitty for two seasons, but had been known for his inconsistency for years and still probably carried some “but he could be good for OUR team” mystique. You still fall in love with “good AJ,” no matter how rarely you saw him.

          I think the perception that the Yankees HAD to move AJ has more to do with the haul either would get.

          • Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM))

            I personally do still fall in love with good AJ. Nasty curve ball, and really good fastball? Man, I wish he could’ve worked out.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Loved him coming up with the Marlins. Always wanted him to be a Yankee. Loved 2009. It’s really too bad it went as it did, but I never stopped liking him.

              He was just dreadful towards the end there.

            • Laz

              And that is something that is a lot more tempting to teams than Soriano who is falling apart. Many teams buy into the just need to get out of NY idea. Is Soriano going to become an all star again outside of Chicago?

            • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

              I never liked AJ with the Yankees. I was in favor of the signing at the time but was afraid they paid to high a price since he was coming off a career year that he would be unable to duplicate.

              I always thought he had a kind of miserable persona too, sulking and scowling all the time and seemingly ready to implode at any moment.

              • Deep Thoughts

                I thought it was an overpay too. It’s wild to compare it to this year, where Anibal Sanchez got basically the same contract. And his stuff isn’t even electric.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I know the Cubs have made some moves, but I don’t know how squeezed off the roster Sori is. Compare that to the Yanks and AJ. AJ was going to take up a rotation spot if not moved. Seems to me like the Yanks had more reason to move AJ than the Cubs do with Sori.

      • Laz

        But in that situation, what is the incentive for the Cubs? Money is not short for them,

  • Dalek Jeter (formerly: Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM))

    A Git? No reason for name calling Mike =P

    Seriously though, I’d do the trade if the price is right, one of Joseph/Almonte/Warren/Mesa, you know a mid-range prospect. 2 if they eat more of the contract.

    • MartinRanger

      This. I’m not really a huge fan of Scott Hairston to begin with. And Soriano’s got higher upside.

  • dalelama

    With mediocrity staring us in the face we need to do something.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. But it wasn’t until I saw your movie that I realized I have to take action. Goodbye, penis!”

      • Slu

        I know nobody will read this because it is so late and not that I agree with the comments above, but this is a total dick comment and over line. You need to relax about the opinions of others on this site.

  • cranky

    Soriano is absolutely NOT a worse fielder than Ibanez. He’s also younger, and quicker, than Ibanez, and still hits for more power.
    I’d take Soriano over Hairston in a heartbeat.
    Neither one of ’em is a good deal for two years. But, that’s just the way it is.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      I looked at Soriano’s defensive metrics the other day and while I’m still somewhat of a skeptic as to their validity, I was pretty surprised that he has been about league average for several years, at least in terms of UZR.

      • RetroRob

        Like you, I question them. The word “flawed” or “less-than-perfect” are used to describe UZR at times. I think this is one of those times. Soriano is probably a better OFer than 2B’man when it comes to the glove, but I have a hard time seeing him as a plus defender, or even league average.

        Just had a scary thought. What happens if the Yankees trade for Soriano to be the DH and platoon OFer, only to have him end up back at 2B in 2014 if Cano left!

  • Joel Skinner

    How about this Scenario….THe Yankees trade a “C” Level Prospect for Soriano. Instead of the Cubs paying $13 million each year and the Yankees paying $5 millioin each year…why not have the cubs pay $9 Million in 2013 (yanks also pay 9 Million) but then in 2014 the Cubs pay $17 million (yanks pay $1million). Before I get crucified, I know that it would still be $5 million AAV for luxury purposes but with the Yankees only on the hook for $1 million in 2014 in actual dollars they could easily trade Soriano to another team because that team would only have to pay $1 million for him – any the Yankees wouldnt have Soriano on the 2014 team for the luxury tax.

    I know it is unlikely but what the hell…any comments?

  • mrdbag

    Caveman won’t do it makes too much sense. Cashman is not for sensible moves and has no imagination n to make trades. I suspect he does not care anymore. I vote to hire billy beane.

  • http://Tab Aly in Ct.

    Well, I’ve been pushing for this trade for the past week; my vote has been cast.