After days of rumors and weeks of desperation, the Yankees are finally adding some right-handed power to the lineup. New York has agreed to acquire Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs for minor league right-hander Corey Black, reports Bob Nightengale and Joel Sherman. Jon Heyman says righty Tommy Kahnle was on the table as well. The trade has not yet been announced by either team.
Soriano, 37, had full no-trade protection through his ten-and-five rights and had to agree to return to the Bronx. Nick Cafardo says the only team he was willing to accept a trade to was the Yankees. Soriano took a red-eye flight to New York last night and is expected to be with the team in time for tonight’s series opener against the Rays. I assume he’ll step right into the lineup on a full-time basis and not platoon. The Yankees have an open 40-man roster spot and will likely demote either Melky Mesa or Thomas Neal to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot.
According to Buster Olney, the Bombers will pay $6.8M of the roughly $24.5M owed to Soriano through next season. They will pay $5M of that $6.8M in 2014. Soriano’s eight-year, $136M contract comes with a $17M average annual value and an $18M salary next season. This luxury tax stuff is complicated, but by my unofficial calculation, Soriano will carry a $4M “tax hit” next year. Hopefully we get some confirmation on this at some point.
In 383 plate appearances this season, Soriano has hit .254/.287/.467 (100 wRC+) with 17 homers and ten stolen bases. That includes a .273/.310/.496 (112 wRC+) line against left-handers. After hitting just .250/.288/.302 with one homer in his first 30 games of 2012, Soriano switched to a lighter bat and hit .265/.331/.551 with 32 homers in his final 121 games. Over the last 30 days of this season, he’s put up a .286/.330/.714 (178 wRC+) line with ten homers.
To give you an idea of how power-starved the Yankees are these days, Soriano has out-homered them 8-7 in July. He’s hit ten homers since the Bombers last got a homerun from a right-handed batter — Jayson Nix took Yu Darvish deep on June 25th — and overall he has 17 homers this season compared to 24 for New York’s righty bats. As a team, the Yankees are hitting just .235/.306/.341 (77 wRC+) with 20 homers against left-handed pitchers in 2013. They were desperate for a right-handed power bat.
Soriano is not without his warts, obviously. He doesn’t walk (3.9%) and will strike out a fair amount (23.2%), though his strikeout rate isn’t as bad as generally believed. It’s more Nick Swisher and Evan Longoria than Curtis Granderson and Mark Reynolds. Soriano also doesn’t steal bases like he once did — his ten steals this year are already his most since 2008. From 2009-2012, he stole just 22 bases in 28 attempts (79%). Soriano has worked hard to both improve his defense (though he’s still no better than average in left) and his reputation in recent years. He gets rave reviews for his work ethic and clubhouse skills nowadays, especially when it came to mentoring the young players in Chicago. The Yankees love that stuff.
As you know, Soriano broke into the big leagues with the Yankees in 1999 before sticking for good in 2001. He signed with the Hiroshima Carp as a 16-year-old in 1992 and played them through 1997, at which point he “retired” from the Japanese leagues so he could sign with the Yankees for $3.1M. Soriano hit .284/.322/.502 (115 wRC+) with 98 homers and 121 steals with New York from 1999-2003, including .295/.335/.536 (128 wRC+) with 77 homers and 76 steals from 2002-2003. He finished third in the 2001 AL Rookie of the Year voting and third in the 2002 AL MVP voting, when he nearly went 40/40 (39/41). Soriano was traded with Joaquin Arias to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez in February 2014.
Black, 21, signed for a below-slot $215k as the team’s fourth round pick in last year’s draft. I ranked him as the 24th best prospect in the organization before the season and the 18th best after last month’s draft. Black has a 4.25 ERA (3.27 FIP) with an excellent strikeout rate (9.58 K/9 and 23.0 K%) but a poor walk rate (4.90 BB/9 and 11.8 BB%) in 82.2 innings spread across 19 starts for High-A Tampa this season, though he did spend time on the DL with an unknown injury. He’s undersized — listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 lbs. — but he has a big fastball, showing 100 in the past and sitting in the mid-90s now. His secondary pitches all need work and he’s likely headed for the bullpen down the road, though he has been impressive as a starter in 2013. Here are some .GIFs.
The Yankees have a ton of hard-throwing right-handed relievers in the organization, making it the one of the only areas the team has plenty of depth to use in trades. They are desperate for power at the big league level and Soriano will provide that even though his game is limited. The Cubs took Black over Kahnle because he’s the better prospect, and trading a High-A pitcher likely destined for the bullpen for an upgrade to the big league lineup for a potential second half push is a move the Yankees should make all day, every day. New York still needs more offense, at least one and probably more like two or three bats, but Soriano is a start and he came at a reasonable cost.
Via Paul Sullivan: Alfonso Soriano is taking a red-eye flight to New York tonight. There has not yet been an official announcement of a trade nor has there even been a report that the two sides agreed to a deal, but that’s a pretty great indication the trade will get done and Soriano will be with the club tomorrow. Based on various reports, the Cubs will pay more than half of the $25M left on his contract and the Yankees will send a low-level pitching prospect to Chicago. We’ll find out the particulars soon enough. · (150) ·
Both RHP Mark Montgomery (Triple-A Scranton) and RHP David Herndon (Double-A Trenton) have been moved up after finishing their rehab outings in Tampa, reports Josh Norris. Meanwhile, Donnie Collins says the recently outrighted IF Alberto Gonzalez has been activated by Triple-A Scranton. C R.J. Baker was placed on the phantom DL to clear a roster spot.
- CF Adonis Garcia: 3-9, 1 RBI – threw a runner out at third
- 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 3-8, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
- DH Randy Ruiz: 4-9, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 K — walk-off solo homer
- C J.R. Murphy: 2-5, 1 2B, 3 BB — he also threw out both attempted base-stealers and caught all 20 innings, so monster game for him
- LHP David Huff: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HB, 5/6 GB/FB — 64 of 96 pitches were strikes (67%) … he’s been pretty darn good for them
- RHP Chase Whitley: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 23 of 39 pitches were strikes (59%) … there was some talk that he would be involved in the imminent Alfonso Soriano, but I doubt he would have pitched tonight if that were the case
- RHP Matt Daley: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 24 of 34 pitches were strikes (71%)
In his first minor league rehab game with High-A Tampa, Curtis Granderson went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout. He lined out to the second baseman as well. Granderson played five innings in left field and had to run down some fly balls, but no big deal. It’s a hand injury, so getting comfortable at the plate is the important thing. He is expected to remain with Tampa through the weekend.
In the same game, Jayson Nix went 0-for-2 with a walk and two fly outs (center and left). He played five innings at third base and didn’t have to make a single play. Nix and his bad hamstring did have to run the bases once, including taking second base on a wild pitch and scoring from second on an error. No idea what the plan is for him, but I assume Nix will be here a few days as well. · (6) ·
A 3-4 road trip isn’t great, but it could have easily been 2-5 if not for that miraculous comeback off Joe Nathan on Tuesday. The Yankees walked away with a 2-0 win on Thursday and have won three of their last six games. It’s amazing what qualifies as good news these days, huh?
Ace In America
Ho hum, another seven scoreless innings from Hiroki Kuroda. It’s his sixth start of at least seven scoreless innings this season and 12th since the start of last season. That’s the most in MLB. Felix Hernandez has done it 11 times, Clayton Kershaw ten times, and no one else more than eight times. Kuroda is down to a 0.69 ERA in four July starts with one more to go.
Thursday afternoon’s start was a little laborious at times, particularly in the third and sixth innings. Texas had runners at first and second with one out in both innings, but a strikeout and a ground ball got him out of the first jam before two fly balls did the trick in the sixth. A.J. Pierzynski laced an opposite field line drive right at Vernon Wells to end the sixth inning rally, but it was definitely scary off the bat. Looked ticketed for the gap for a second.
Kuroda held the Rangers to six singles and one walk in the seven innings, the 16th (!) time in his 21 starts he walked no more than one batter. Only 61 of his 100 pitches were strikes and only 11 of 26 batters faced saw a first pitch strike, both below Kuroda’s usual rates. The end result was fantastic and that’s all that matters, but the staff ace had to grind a little bit in this one. Kuroda gave the team exactly what they needed.
Two Runs Are Better Than None
Left-hander Derek Holland threw a 92-pitch complete-game shutout when the faced the Yankees a few weeks ago, and for a while it looked like we were in for a repeat. He cruised through the first five innings on just 50 pitches even though the Yankees had men on base in every inning but the third. After Eduardo Nunez led off the fifth with a ground rule double, Holland needed just seven pitches to retire the next three batters and escape the inning.
The Yankees finally broke through in the sixth, and all it took was an Austin Romine double and a Brent Lillibridge single. You know, the kind of stuff you see everyday. An Ichiro Suzuki sac bunt was sandwiched between the two. New York was up 1-0 after six and it was hang on for dear life time, but the offense was nice enough to tack on an insurance run in the eighth. Nunez beat out a potential double play ball — it was a tough play, far from routine — to extend the inning and allow the run to score.
Despite the win, this was the third time in the four-game series the Yankees scored no more than two runs. Remember, it was hot as hell all week and The Ballpark in Arlington is a great place to hit, yet they still couldn’t take advantage. The Yankees still haven’t hit a homerun in the second half, a span of seven games that matches their longest homer-less stretch since 1990. The last time they went eight straight games without a dinger was 1984, when they went ten straight. Two runs got the job done on Thursday though, and right now that’s all that matters.
Don’t look now, but Romine has swung the bat well of late. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles in this game and is 7-for-21 (.333) with four doubles this month. It’s not much, but it sure is better than what he was doing earlier this year. The Yankees should probably give Romine some more playing time just to see what happens. They owe it to themselves. Sitting Chris Stewart a few games won’t be the end of the world.
David Robertson and Mariano Rivera closed things out for Kuroda with two nearly flawless innings. Nunez booted a tough grounder in the ninth that was ruled a hit. That was the only base-runner the end-game duo allowed. It’s tough to overstate how important Robertson and Rivera are to this team aa presently constructed. They need to preserve every single lead they’re handed.
Robinson Cano doubled to start that eighth inning rally, one of five doubles they hit as a team. It’s the first time the Yankees had at least five extra-base hits in a game since Independence Day and the 12th time overall. They did it 40 times last year. Yikes. Nunez, Lillibridge, and Romine had the other two-baggers.
Ichiro (infield single), Wells (single to left), David Adams (single to left), and Melky Mesa (single to center) had the rest of the team’s hits. Adams certainly would have scored from first on Romine’s two-out double in the seventh had it not hopped over the fence. It was a rocket over the center fielder’s head.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
That might be the most boring graph of the season. Anyway, check out MLB.com for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN the updated standings.
The Yankees are coming home to the Bronx for the first time since the All-Star break. They won’t be there very long though, just three games against the Rays before taking off for the West Coast early next week. CC Sabathia and Jeremy Hellickson is your pitching matchup for Friday night’s opener. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live.
The seven-game road trip through Boston and Texas is mercifully over, though this afternoon’s win was a fantastic way to cap things off. Three wins and four losses is bad anyway you slice it, but the Yankees were dangerously close to a 2-5 or even a 1-6 trip, really. The wins are in bank though, and that’s all that matters at this point.
Here is your open thread for the evening. MLB Network will air a game tonight, though who you see depends on where you live. Tri-Staters should see the Red Sox and Rays. Other than that, you’re on your own for entertainment, but feel free to talk about anything you want here. Go nuts.
(Update by Benjamin Kabak) 6:27 p.m.: A-Rod himself just went on Mike Francesa’s show on WFAN and stressed his desire to play. It doesn’t sound like he trusts the Yankees’ medical staff right now (fast forward to the 4:30 mark for that one), but he said he has to listen to his bosses. Give the whole thing a listen below (or here on Soundcloud. What a circus this is turning out to be.
5:23pm: The Yankees will fine Rodriguez for not notifying the team before getting the second opinion, according to Jon Heyman. No idea how much, but it’ll be a drop in the A-Rod bucket no matter what.
3:24pm: A-Rod was examined by Dr. Dan Murphy in Tampa, who went over the MRI and agreed with the original Grade I quad strain diagnosis, according to Brian Cashman. There has been some improvement and the two sides agreed to a rehab plan. They hope to get Alex back into a simulated or rehab game on August 1st.
2:30pm: Via Steven Marcus: The Yankees will indeed discipline Alex Rodriguez for violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement and getting a second opinion on his quad injury without notifying the team in writing. They have not yet decided what that discipline will be, but I would be surprised if it was something serious like a lengthy suspension.
A-Rod, meanwhile, issued a statement today saying yesterday’s fiasco was the result of “crossed signals.” You can read the full statement right here. Unfortunately, “enough doctors, let’s play” isn’t nearly as catchy as “we play today, we win today, das it.” Rodriguez is being re-evaluated again today, presumably by a team-approved doctor.
Dustin Pedroia just signed a long-term extension with the Red Sox, a contract that really doesn’t impact Robinson Cano for reasons I outlined yesterday. In an Insider-only piece at ESPN, Dan Syzmborski used his ZiPS system to put a dollar amount on Robbie’s future worth using projections. Obviously this shouldn’t be taken as gospel; it’s for fun more than anything.
The good news is that the system doesn’t see Cano dropping below 4 WAR until 2018 and under 2 WAR until 2021, mostly because his skillset is so wide — he hits for average, hits for power, and plays defense. Lots of carrying skills there. ZiPS pegs Robbie for a total of 22 WAR over the next eight years, which is worth $181M in free agent dollars. Eight years and $181M is essentially Mark Teixeira’s contract and seems completely plausible. I wonder if Cano would want that bumped up $190M to exceed Derek Jeter’s guarantee back in the day, making it the second richest deal in franchise history. · (40) ·
I’m at a loss for words after seeing this afternoon’s lineup. Here, look:
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 3B Brent Lillibridge
- DH Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- 2B David Adams
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- CF Melky Mesa
- C Austin Romine
There is one above-average hitter in that lineup relative to position. Watch them go out and score like 13 runs now. Hiroki Kuroda is on the mound, so hopefully he allows no more than -1 runs just in case that 13-run outburst doesn’t come.
It’s hot and cloudy in Dallas this afternoon, and there is no rain in the forecast. That is expected to come tomorrow, when the Yankees will be back in New York. This afternoon’s game will begin at 2:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Derek Jeter (quad) will run the bases today for the first time since getting hurt prior to the All-Star break. He is eligible to come off the DL on Saturday, but he isn’t guaranteed to be ready at that time.