2014 Season Review: The Fall of Alfonso Soriano

Headley indicates willingness to return, doesn't want to be "a part-time guy"
AP: Qualifying offer set at $15.3M for 2014-15 offseason

The 2014 season is over and it’s time to look back at the year that was. Our old What Went Right/Wrong format has gotten stale, so it’s time for a new preview format. We’ll review individual players, performances, tendencies, and all sorts of stuff in the coming days and weeks.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Coming into the season, there were many reasons to think the Yankees would have a better offense in 2014 than 2013. For starters, they committed more than $280M to the free agent trio of Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Jacoby Ellsbury, each of whom brought a different dynamic to the lineup. The Yankees were also getting Mark Teixeira back from wrist surgery, and although Lyle Overbay filled in admirably last year, Teixeira at this phase of his career was still an upgrade.

On top of all of that, the Yankees would also have a full season of Alfonso Soriano. The club re-acquired Soriano at least year’s trade deadline and he was a force in the second half, hitting .256/.325/.525 (130 wRC+) with 17 homeruns in 58 games after the trade. He hit exactly as many homers and drove in nearly the same number of runs (51 to 50) in 58 games with the Yankees as he did in 93 games with the Cubs. Returning to New York seemed to reinvigorate the 38-year-old Soriano.

Because of the Ellsbury and Beltran additions, the Yankees forced Soriano into an unfamiliar role. He was either going to have to play right field or serve as the DH to stay in the lineup — and, coming into the year, there was every reason to want him in the lineup everyday — but he didn’t have much experience at either spot. In fact, Soriano had never played right field in his career until this year, and he had only 38 games of DH experience spread across the first 15 years of his career. He played DH only 14 times with the Cubs from 2007-13.

But, the Yankees painted themselves into a roster corner, so Soriano worked out in right field during Spring Training and also took some reps at DH to get familiar with sitting on the bench between at-bats. He opened the regular season as the regular DH while occasionally seeing time in left (whenever Ellsbury or Brett Gardner sat) and right (whenever Beltran sat). It wasn’t until Beltran’s elbow began to act up that Soriano moved into the field full-time — he took over as the regular right fielder in mid-May and was routinely taken out for defense in the late innings.

We can’t trust such a small sample of defensive stats but I thought Soriano actually looked decent in right field, especially considering he had never played the position before. I mean, he wasn’t great, but he made all the routine plays and occasionally surprised with a no-so-routine play. Opponents did run on his weak arm at will — runners attempted to take the extra base 12 times in 15 opportunities, a 20.0% hold rate that was well below the 46.4% league average — but that wasn’t surprising. You knew other teams were going to test him at a new position.

Adjusting to life as a part-time outfielder and part-time DH was not going to be easy, but the Yankees were expecting Soriano to be their top right-handed power source and a consistent threat near the middle of the lineup. Instead, they got one of the worst offensive players in baseball. Soriano hit .242/.275/.414 (88 wRC+) with five homers in 138 plate appearances as he regular DH before hitting .194/.200/.306 (29 wRC+) with one homerun in exactly 100 plate appearances after taking over in right field following Beltran’s injury. From May 5th through June 12th he went 16-for-83 (.193) with 37 strikeouts (43.5%).

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The end result was a .221/.244/.367 (64 wRC+) batting line with six homers in 238 plate appearances. Among the 349 players with at least 200 plate appearances in 2014, Soriano ranked 298th in AVG, 343rd in OBP, 228th in SLG, 316th in OPS+, 332nd in wRC+, 327th in strikeout rate, and 346th in walk rate. He struck out 71 times (29.5%) and walked six times (2.5%), including once intentionally. The Yankees were counting on Soriano to be a major weapon against lefties and he hit .249/.269/.416 (84 wRC+) against southpaws, which is both terrible and way better than the .204/.228/.336 (51 wRC+) line he put up against righties.

The Yankees finally pulled the plug on July 6th, designating Soriano for assignment to clear both a 25-man and 40-man roster spot for career minor league journeyman Bruce Billings. Joe Girardi had relegated Soriano to the bench for spot start study a few weeks before that, opting to use Ichiro Suzuki in right field full-time once Beltran returning and took over the DH spot. Soriano told reporters he would spend some time with his family before deciding whether to retire or continue playing, but we haven’t heard anything since. No team showed interest in him even at the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.

Soriano was one of the most exciting players in recent Yankees history when he first came up all those years ago because of his speed and big power despite a rail thin frame. He returned to New York a decade later and had an excellent half-season in pinstripes in 2013 before things came crashing down in 2014. Maybe changing positions hurt his offense — to his credit, Soriano never complained about being asked to change positions — or maybe it was just old age. He is 38 after all, and he had already switched to a lighter bat with the Cubs to compensate for lost bat speed. Add in his plate indiscipline and it’s not really a surprise he fell off the cliff so quickly.

The Yankees did improve their offense from 2013 to 2014 but not as much as expected for many reasons, including Soriano’s sudden fall from grace. He wasn’t even able to be a bench bat who played against lefties by the end. The fall of was that drastic. Maybe Soriano will decide to play again, but players his age usually don’t get job offers after seasons like this, which included spending the last three months at home. In all likelihood, his excellent but not quite Hall of Fame worthy career is over, and that makes me sad.

Headley indicates willingness to return, doesn't want to be "a part-time guy"
AP: Qualifying offer set at $15.3M for 2014-15 offseason
  • Tim McGuire

    He had a great career and lookes great coming back in 13 for the Yankees he will always be remembered as the main piece in the a-ROID trade….

  • Yarnek

    I’ll always remember him flailing at sliders two feet out of the strike zone. Vaya con dios, my man.

    • Monterocouldstillbedinero

      He did commit to swinging way too early on impossible balls to hit. A true guess hitter. Sad and painful to watch in 2014.

    • vicki

      from lisanti’s jeter diary, back in june:

      “We play a game with him during batting practice called Don’t Swing at This. He stands at home plate and we place a ball on the infield grass 10 feet in front of him and yell, ‘Don’t swing at this!’ He thinks he can hit it. He swings. He misses…. We all laugh, but it’s probably some kind of compulsive disorder. Sometimes we catch him in the tunnel, swinging at gnats.

      He might need a few days off. He hasn’t killed a gnat in three weeks. You hope he eventually runs into one.”

      • LazerTown

        Forgot exactly how it went, but yea that was classic.

  • Mayan Brickann

    Imagine his NYY legacy had the home half of the 9th inning gone a little differently on that fateful Sunday night in November 2001.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Still loved 2013. Still happy we got to watch him one more time in pinstripes. I had forgotten how much enjoyed Alfonso Soriano until I got to watch him again last season.

    Thank you, Sori.

    • http://yankeecanada.com Bob(bobby) M.

      too bad really. I don’t think he wanted to leave the Yankees in the first place and he was excited about being traded back. A great last half of the 2013 season. Lots of power. Why did it all disappear a season later? He didn’t seem to be the same guy. Lots of adrenalin coming to the Yankees initially. Did he lose it? Did he not prepare physically and mentally in the off season for 2014? Would he have done better as an everyday player in the outfield and playing on a regular basis? Something went south in a hurry. Sad.

  • Andrew DeClerk

    Many reasons to expect a better offense? They tried to replace a $1 superstar at a premium position with a few quarters (Beltran, McCann, Ellsbury) and pennies (Soriano, Roberts).

    Pretty amazing actually that for a team that spends so much, they started two guys for months who would soon wash out of baseball completely.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Yeah, we heard you in the last 40 threads.

      • Andrew DeClerk

        You said many reasons to expect better. You didn’t name the reasons to expect worse. That was a given for me. Was it for you?

        • Mayan Brickann

          They replaced about 2500 plate appearances from Overbay, C. Stewart, Nunez, Nix, V. Wells and Hafner with Beltran, Ellsbury, McCann, Teixeira and Jeter and K. Johnson. Even with Roberts getting Cano’s PA’s, there was reason to expect some overall team improvement. Obviously a lot went wrong, and that didn’t happen to the extent it probably should have.

          • Dalek Jeter

            No, literally the only outcome we should have expected was essentially the worst possible outcome, which is what we saw. To expect otherwise means you have your head up Cashman’s ass and live in a fairytale land.

            • Andrew DeClerk

              The worst? No I expected the same team outcome in 2014 as 2013. It was obvious to anyone paying attention.

              News flash: 2015 won’t be much different.

          • Andrew DeClerk

            And the old bats getting older? No evidence to suggest Teixeira would actually be good either.

  • Andrew DeClerk

    By the way for as much as Soriano showed in 2013, it was the epitome of SSS. I assume they exactly signed Beltran because they expected Soriano to regress. Meanwhile, they should have just stuck with Ichiro.

    • Mayan Brickann

      I always though of 1-1 and 0-1 as co-epitomes of SSS

    • Mayan Brickann

      Also worth noting that Soriano’s 2012 and 2013 seasons ended up being somewhat similar to each other, so that 2013 2nd half may not have been as SSS as you’d like to believe.

      • http://batman-news.com Thunderfingers

        Andrew DeClerk is becoming my new Eddard, in that I won’t respond directly to him. He has his thoughts that he believes to be 100% correct, and won’t sway from them despite facts to the contrary. At least Eddard changes his opinions (although he changes them to fit the narrative of the day just to get responses).

        • JLC 776

          Eddard didn’t spam nearly as much as well. There are stories that have dozens of ADC posts.

        • mitch

          Most of the time i can’t stand Eddard either, but at least his posts are done with a wink and a nod

        • Andrew DeClerk

          Show me where I am wrong. You claim that with no evidence.

      • Andrew DeClerk

        And 2014?

        • Mayan Brickann

          Different question which does nothing to support your SSS argument for 2013. In 2014 he was bad. The organization gave a couple months worth of plate appearances to see if he could get right. When he couldn’t they let him go. What else were they supposed to do?

          • Andrew DeClerk

            Pay attention to a larger sample size.

            • Preston

              The 383 PAs in Chicago are not the larger sample size (even if they were they Yankees wouldn’t have cut him if he’d replicated his 103 wRC+). The larger sample size is the full 2013 season, where he posted a 113 wRC+, right in line with 117 he’d posted the prior year, and his 111 career. There were no signs of precipitous decline, he walked, struck out, and hit for power at career norms. At his age decline can happen in an instant. I’m sure the Yankees were well aware of that and factored it into the decision.

  • Andrew DeClerk

    And honestly how many more years will we have to endure starters in April who wash out of baseball mid-season?

    • 86w183

      As long as you have multiple age 35+ positional players on the roster.

    • Canarsie Yankee

      As long as the Yankees do not round up all those hitting their 30th birthday and sending them to a re-education camp where Cashman is a hero, I’m married to Molly Ringwald, and for some reason there’s a chalkboard in the living room.

  • just_add_bacon7

    It was tough to see Sori go out like that. He always carried himself well, and that bat was live as hell. He always used an old school heavy bat, but you could never tell by how quickly he was able to get it through the zone.

    • http://yankeecanada.com Bob(bobby) M.

      the more desperate he got the wilder his swing so that he was swinging at everything and anything. He swung up on every pitch trying to hit a home run in stead of learning how to hit singles and to the opposite field. Couldn’t or wouldn’t make the adjustment and has become redundant. Unfortunate.

  • Y’s Guy

    Off topic but…Puig benched? WOW!

    • Mayan Brickann

      Desperate Dodgers

      • 86w183

        Dude’s been whiffing damn near every at bat.
        Watch him hit a HR as a pinch hitter

        • Mayan Brickann

          He didn’t have a very strong 2nd half and has looked lousy of late, but that move still makes no sense.

          • vicki

            they suffer no lack of outfielders.

            • Mayan Brickann

              Nope, but you may as well go with your best 3. Today Mattingly is opting not to.

  • Dalek Jeter

    By far my least favorite part of 2014 was watching how bad Sori was. He was my favorite player when he was traded away and it was so awesome to see him come back as a true force in 2013.

    • JLC 776

      Right with you. I loved Sori and lamented his departure (as fantastic as the ARod contract was back then), and while I rolled my eyes at the trade last year, I was thrilled with how well he did. His 2014 was just a really sad footnote of a generally down year for the team.

      • Dalek Jeter

        The fact that he was the one traded is why I hated Alex until his 2005 season.

        • LazerTown

          They got a complete hitter for that scrub.

          • Canarsie Yankee

            Scrub?

            • LazerTown

              2004 Arod was a complete player, Soriano never was. Arod had good defense at shortstop, soriano had bad defense at 2b. Arod had plate discipline, Soriano did not. Both had power, but Arod was the complete player, Soriano was decent in his prime, but he nowhere close to arod.

  • Larry Gene Mofield

    Offense is contagious, Cano became a. 300 hitter in 13 because of hot hitting. If the offense of Tex, Beltran had hit then maybe Soriano would had. He has always been streak hitter, they should had played him every day like Beltran

    • http://cheapinkstore.com Cheapness Smithy

      Cano was a .300 hitter who was being called a “future batting champ” by his hitting coach in like 2005.

      • Larry Gene Mofield

        At the time of Soriano trade he wasn’t hitting.. 300. Soriano got things going for Cano because there was finally protection . I don’t know if Soriano would had turned it around He usually gets hot in July and August.

    • http://cheapinkstore.com Cheapness Smithy

      Cano was a .300 hitter who was being called a “future batting champ” by his hitting coach in like 2005.

  • TCF16

    Looking back on 2014, I wonder if Girardi wishes he had just stuck with Soriano in the field for a solid two months to see if (a) he could get on a hot streak and (b) if Beltran would have been healthier if he was the full time DH.

  • Mayan Brickann

    Off topic, but Qualifying Offer for this off season has been set at $15.3M

  • Mick

    Was Sori this year? Wow..

  • LazerTown

    The best thing about 2015 will be never having to watch this guy bat again. The only things he didn’t swing at were fastballs down the middle. Like WTF, he had no idea what was coming.

  • SweetSpot

    Age matters and Soriano proved that yet again. When an aging player’s abilities to compete with major leaguers goes, it’s over. Soriano’s skills went faster than many others, but everyone is an individual and no one can predict when that time is going to come. Pettitte knew it was coming, so did Mo and Jeter. It’s a young man’s game with few exceptions. This is why I don’t hold out much hope for Beltran, Teixeira, A-Rod and Sabathia having better than average seasons ever again. More frequent injuries come with age along with diminishing skills; bat speed, strength and power, reaction time, hand eye coordination, etc. The above mentioned players, our former ace and middle of the rotation bats, cannot compete in my opinion with what other AL teams are going to put on the field. It’s sad, but this is called paying the piper for long term deals the Yankees made.

    • Pkyankfan69

      I think Beltran can be pretty good next year, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him post an .800+ OPS if he’s healthy. Beltran was still a pretty darn good hitter in 2013 and was off to a nice start before he hit the wall in TB. I wish we had the everyday DH spot open for his next year to give him the best chance possible at having a healthy year.

      • Mayan Brickann

        He had a .777 OPS vs. RHP’s even in relatively poor health. He’s still solid there. I’d like to see a platoon partner for LHP’s though. Would keep him rested and he really doesn’t hit them anymore.

    • TB

      Jeter’s year at 38 playing one of the most demanding positions when he led the league in hits kind of hurts your argument as does Mariano Rivera or Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens – whether players are young or old some get hurt – some stop producing – in fact how old are tanaka, Nova, and Pineda who were hurt this year

      • tbone1570

        Young players can get hurt, older players can get hurt more often.

      • Andrew DeClerk

        And he yet you ignore that Jeter was still a below average defender at age 38. He wasn’t a SS then in the same way Ripkin wasn’t.

        Of course, you also ignore the chemical advantages Clemens and Bonds had.

      • SweetSpot

        You should read what I wrote more carefully. I said every individual is different and there are exceptions

  • Canarsie Yankee

    I’ll agree with the last sentence. This season with Soriano did make me sad. I can accept an attempt at one last hurrah but this year was brutual after the year Soriano posted in 2013.

  • TB

    Teams wishing to make one-year qualifying players to pending free agents will have to be willing to pay them $15.3MM, the Associated Press reports (via Sportsnet.ca; h/t to Ben Nicholson-Smith). That represents an 8.5% increase over least year’s $14.1MM price tag.

    • Canarsie Yankee

      Everything that gold guy told me about inflation was true!

    • Mayan Brickann

      Certainly information that David Robertson will find interesting.

      • TB

        Agreed – and the system is horrible and needs to be changed – each position should have its own qualifying offer based on average salary for that position – having to give a closer or any reliever that type of qualifying offer is a joke

        • Mayan Brickann

          Maybe, but he’ll be getting one. If his value wasn’t appreciated before the playoffs started, it certainly should be now.

          • vicki

            i’m sure the tigers and dodgers, for example, will be desperate to add someone with drob’s history of consistency, but another way to look at their respective failures this october is overspending on relievers doesn’t guarantee shut-down late innings.

            • Y’s Guy

              Michael Kay just said flat-out that if the Yankees offer the Q.O. that Drob will accept it. I don’t know that I agree with that. I think he sees alot more guaranteed money by turning it down.

              • TB

                No closer makes 15.3 mill a year – Of course he would accept it

                • mitch

                  definitely not a guarantee. He could easily opt for a longer deal for more guaranteed money.

        • The Shanesaw

          Yeah. The money is all the Cano, Cabrera contracts

        • mitch

          They should just get rid of the system in general. It was started compensate the lower payroll teams for losing stars, but it never really accomplished that. It just ended up with higher payroll teams f-ing over decent players.

  • The Shanesaw

    Sori is my sisters favorite player. I hope he has one last amazing year, and retires

  • TB

    Teams wishing to make one-year qualifying players to pending free agents will have to be willing to pay them $15.3MM, the Associated Press reports (via Sportsnet.ca; h/t to Ben Nicholson-Smith). That represents an 8.5% increase over least year’s $14.1MM price tag.

  • Dan A.

    Listening to LAD-STL on MLB At Bat . . . this Vin Scully guy is pretty good.

  • GoDucks

    I grew up hating the Yankees, but my wife is big Yankee fan, so have watched nearly all of their games ever since they became available here. Soriano, the first time around, was the first Yankee I felt differently about, I.e., I really liked the guy, and his game, but, especially, his enthusiasm. Even so, we always laughed about his inability to lay off the low and outside pitch. Loved it when he came back and thrived last year. Mike and other posters used exactly the right word for watching his unfortunate end this year: sad, very sad.

  • ropeadope1

    One year from today on RAB:
    —–
    2015 Season Review: The Resurrection of Alfonso Soriano

  • hrbomber1113

    Maybe we can bring him back on a MiLB next year and he can be a poor man’s Andruw Jones and be a lefty masher off the bench. It seemed like a lot of mental issues contributed to his downfall and perhaps he can work those out. If you recall he had a big problem and almost went on the disqualified list and sat out when Washington moved him off 2nd base because of Vidro so we know moving positions bothered/bothers him a ton. I’ve always loved Soriano so maybe…just maybe we can have a happy ending. I doubt it but I’m hoping for it.

    • http://cheapinkstore.com Cheapness Smithy

      I would rather have Andruw Jones. He’s younger and can probably still hit better.

    • http://cheapinkstore.com Cheapness Smithy

      I would rather have Andruw Jones. He’s younger and can probably still hit better.

  • RetroRob

    The problem with Sori is even when he was good he’d have stretches where he looked done. These bad stretches would be followed by blistering hot stretches. Blistering never showed up this year. The end comes for all.

  • mrbulkyc

    I was watching a spring training game,announcer were talking about Soriano for 2015,and he said he wasnt sure if he could still do it.He must have felt himself slipping,going into 2014 with little confidence.I thought that was very surprising.