Archive for Alfonso Soriano

Soriano is back in pinstripes. (Getty)

Soriano is back in pinstripes. (Getty)

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.

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

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.

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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.

Categories : Asides, Trade Deadline
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Thursday: The Cubs have given Soriano two or three days to approve the trade to the Yankees, reports Gordon Wittenmyer. George King says he could be in pinstripes as soon as tomorrow. Chicago wants pitching, but the Bombers balked at giving them one of their better young arms like Preston Claiborne.

Wednesday: Via Carrie Muskat: The Yankees are included in the list of teams Alfonso Soriano willing to accept a trade to. He gave President of Baseball Ops Theo Epstein the list last night. It’s unclear which other teams are included. “It’s not 100%,” said Soriano when asked if he will be traded. He did say a deal is closer now than it has been in years past.

Soriano, 37, is not in Chicago’s lineup tonight, though supposedly it was the manager’s decision to give him a day to clear his head. The Yankees may or may not be close to acquiring their former second baseman, who would give them a much-needed power right-handed bat for the middle of the lineup. Soriano is hitting .254/.287/.467 (100 wRC+) with 17 homers and ten steals this season, including a 113 wRC+ against southpaws. He has full no-trade protection via his ten-and-five rights.

Categories : Asides, Trade Deadline
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8:30pm: There’s a “large gap” between how the Yankees and Cubs value Soriano, reports Buster Olney. The two sides are also haggling over who plays how much of his remaining salary. Paul Sullivan says Soriano confirmed the Yankees have spoken to his agent, but he has not yet been asked to waive his no-trade clause.

1:04am: Via George King: The Yankees are close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs. Chicago will pay the bulk of the $25M or so left on his contract through next season, and the money will be structured in such a way that Soriano has no impact on the 2014 luxury tax calculation, similar to Vernon Wells. King says the Yankees will send a mid-level prospect to the Cubbies.

Soriano, 37, has ten-and-five no-trade protection, but he has indicated he will not veto a deal to return to New York in the past. He came into Monday’s action hitting .259/.289/.476 (103 wRC+) with 17 homers this season, including a 123 wRC+ against lefties. Following what has become an annual slow start, he’s put up a .300/.326/.744 (186 wRC+) line with ten homers over the last 30 days. The Yankees are desperate for power, particularly from the right side, so Soriano definitely fills a need.

Categories : Asides, Trade Deadline
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(Marc Serota/Getty)

(Marc Serota/Getty)

After a fairly dismal road trip, the Yankees now stand in third place with a 39-32 record and a run differential of zero. With just under 60% of the season remaining, there’s a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of time for rosters to change. As to be expected, Brian Cashman has already mentioned the team is “open for business,” so let’s take a look at some possible targets* who have been swirling about here at RAB.

Giancarlo Stanton
The 23 year old outfielder formerly known as Mike hasn’t had the best luck this season. He was sidelined in late April for five weeks with a fairly severe hamstring strain. Since returning Stanton has batted .344/.382/.813 (1.195 OPS) with four home runs. He’s a career .270/.350/.550 (.382 wOBA, 140 wRC+) hitter with three cost controlled years remaining. This is exactly the type of guy the Yankees should pursue. Chances are the Marlins won’t completely screw their fanbase move their disgruntled superstar by the deadline, but they very well may consider moving him come the offseason.

The problem is that Stanton’s a superstar and superstars require major hauls. The Yankees would be required to give up at least four or five of their top prospects (which I would definitely be okay with) – we’re talking Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and maybe Rafael DePaula for starters – and that very well might not be enough to get it done, nor would a package such as that necessarily compete with other insane prospect packages offered by other organizations. Chances of this trade happening, in my opinion, are gloomy with a chance of “get-the-eff-outa-here,” but it’s fun to dream nevertheless.

Chase Headley
Headley has had a disappointing start to the 2013 season, at least by his standards. He’s batting .221/.328/.350 (.304 wOBA, 99 wRC+); hence the “Quick! It’s time to buy…” chants. The problem here is threefold. First, the Padres, despite sitting right at .500 are only three games out of first place, so they probably aren’t going to be sellers, at least as it stands now.

Second, San Diego GM Josh Byrnes isn’t a fool. He’s not going to just hand over a young, talented third baseman just because he’s struggled early on this season – it just doesn’t behoove the team to act in such reactionary fashion. In fact, the organization actively tried to discuss a long-term extension with Headley already. Third, and along the same lines as Stanton, if Byrnes were to trade Headley, it wouldn’t be cheap nor would NY necessarily have enough MLB-ready, elite prospects to get a deal done. If this was doable, I’d be all for it even if it meant gutting the farm. I just don’t see it happening though. Bummer.

(Brian Kersey/Getty)

(Brian Kersey/Getty)

Alfonso Soriano
This one’s kind of interesting because it’s much more plausible. The former Yankee second baseman has a full no-trade clause, though that really isn’t a big deal as he can still approve a move to NY (and all indications suggest he would be willing to consider them). Contractually, Soriano is still owed about $30.5M total for the remainder of this season and next. Presumably, if the Cubs were to make a move, the expectation would probably be for them to eat a significant chunk of the contract if they’re expecting any sort of return. If the Cubs just wanted to unload the remaining salary on to another team (which is also possible), they probably wouldn’t get anything back — kind of like how the Yankees handled A.J. Burnett.

Maybe the Cubs are willing to eat $15-20M, in which case I could see a C-level prospect getting thrown into the deal. In terms of upgrading the Yankee lineup, Soriano has hit .249/.280/393 (.290 wOBA, 79 wRC+) this season but is one year removed from posting a 116 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR season last year. He also has a very discernible splits against right-handers and he’s never shown a whole lot of patience at the plate (career 5.9 BB%). Would he be an improvement over what the Yankees are currently trotting out into left field? Probably. Do we really want another him though? I’d say no unless the Cubs eat almost all the remaining dollars, in which case, my official stance becomes “meh.” Eventually Curtis Granderson will return anyway.

Andre Ethier
Now here’s another guy who’s name gets mentioned frequently around here. Ethier has batted .251/.333/.377 (.308 wOBA, 98 wRC+) this season, which is about on par with what ZiPS projected. On the plus side he’s consistently been a 100-plus wRC+ hitter who has hit for some power over the years. On the downside, he has very obvious splits – lefties haven’t been particularly kind to him which inevitably translates into another platoon bat. He’s also shown increasing strikeout trends over the past few seasons. Moreover, his defensive value in right field has been judged as anywhere from slightly below-average to outright lousy.

The real elephant in the room though is the contract. The Dodgers saw fit to give Ethier a five year, $85M deal which carries him through 2017 (plus a 2018 club option). That translates out to about $8M owed this year, $15M in 2014, $18M in 2015 and 2016, then $17.5M in 2017. Yikes. Then there’s the age. He’s already 31 years old. I don’t want to see the Yankees on the hook for a ton of cash during his decline years, and I don’t want to see anyone noteworthy get shipped out to LA in return for him. Fortunately, should the Yankees elect to send prospects to LA, I imagine it would be nothing beyond a B-level prospect. Granted, I have never been a big Ethier supporter, but I really have no interest in seeing another corpse stumbling along the bases over the next several years.

*For the record, I have been saying from day one that there aren’t going to be any big names heading to NY by the trade deadline. Until I see otherwise, I’m sticking by this prediction. Also, if you have any trade targets you’d like me to consider, please submit them using the “Submit a Tip” feature, and I’ll try to incorporate it into my follow up piece which will hopefully be written in the next week or so.

Categories : Trade Deadline
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Four questions and four answers this week, the final mailbag before Opening Day. Hooray for that. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Ryan asks: The Vernon Wells trade … will essentially be the Yankees paying an above average one-year deal with help in the second year. My question is, where was this in the offseason, when they could have overpaid for one-year deals? Is this simply because they learned that Mark Teixeira‘s salary would be paid by the World Baseball Classic and freed up extra money?

I think it’s a combination of things. First and foremost are the injuries — the Yankees probably didn’t think they needed any more help in the offseason because they were already good enough. That’s a dangerous way to think as we see now thanks to all the lost players and recent scrambling. Secondly is the WBC money, since it is a nice chunk of change they’re getting back. Then again, spending those savings (and potentially more) on Wells might not have been the brightest idea.

Brian Cashman made it pretty clear Wells will be the team’s everyday left fielder while Curtis Granderson is out — “So the rest of these guys are fighting for support positions,” said the GM to Chad Jennings — and I can’t help but think the team views him as a Granderson replacement for 2014. Maybe Wells will play his way out of that role, who knows. The Yankees have had a lot of success with these veteran scrap heap pickups in recent years, but dropping $13.9M on a player is beyond a scrap heap pickup to me. That’s a big commitment.

Matt asks: Hindsight being 20/20n, would you rather have Wells for the reported two years, $13.9 million or Alfonso Soriano for the same?

Soriano, no doubt about it. He was actually good last season, hitting .262/.322/.499 (116 wRC+) with 32 homers. Wells … hasn’t done anything close to that lately. There’s also some tangible evidence — switching to a lighter bat at in mid-May, at which point his production took off — suggesting Soriano’s revival was real and not a fluke. Even though he’s three years older than Wells, he’s much more productive.

The issue with Soriano is that the Cubs wanted a legitimate prospect in return. They didn’t consider it just a salary dump like the Angels did with Wells. It’s also unclear if they would have structured the money in such a way that Soriano would have counted as zero dollars towards the 2014 luxury tax threshold. I don’t want either player, but if I had to pick one I would rather give up an actual prospect to get the much better player. The Yankees obviously disagree.

(G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

(G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

Mitch asks: Four years from now, which contract do you think will have been better for the Yankees — Mark Teixeira’s or Jason Giambi‘s?

It’s unfair to directly compare the contract terms — seven years, $120M vs. eight years, $180M — because of inflation and Collective Bargaining Agreement changes and all that. Let’s keep it to on-field performance.

Giambi hit .260/.404/.521 (145 wRC+) during his seven years in New York while Teixeira is at .263/.357/.506 (128 wRC+) after year four with four more to go. Forget the wrist injury, I don’t think there’s any way his offensive production would catch up to Giambi’s even if he was perfectly healthy. In terms of batting runs above average (wRAA), Tex is basically halfway to Giambi’s total in pinstripes in ~60% of the playing time (107.4 vs. 214.1).

The question now is whether Teixeira’s defense will be good enough to compensate for the offensive gap. Giambi was at -35 DRS and -22.4 UZR during those eight years with the Yankees while Teixeira is at +28 DRS and +19.6 UZR after year four. That’s a huge gap and that figures to only grow larger. Combining offense and defense, Giambi averaged +25.6 runs produced per year in pinstripes. Teixeira is at 33.9 per year. It’s a huge difference built largely on questionable defensive metrics. Giambi was a better hitter and I’m an offense first guy, so I’ll say his contract will go down as the better one for the Yankees with the obvious caveat that Tex still has four years to change things.

Fred asks: With six starting pitchers to start the season, and maybe seven if Michael Pineda actually returns at some point, doesn’t it make sense to employ a six-man rotation every two or three turns through the rotation? With CC Sabathia‘s innings load being an issue, plus the ages of Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, doesn’t it make sense to insert whoever the sixth starter is a couple times a month to help soak up innings, keep the other guys fresh? It basically means the top five starters go about two or three less starts for the year and the sixth man gets about a dozen starts. Helps everyone no?

Well, let’s see all the starters get healthy at the same time before we start worrying about this. Phil Hughes has return from his bulging disk before anything can happen, and who knows how that will go. This also assumes all six (or seven) starters are actually effective and worthy of making starts. Someone is bound to disappoint, it’s just usually how it goes.

Now, that said, yeah I do think the Yankees should consider sliding in a sixth starter now and then just to take the load off Sabathia and, in particular, Pettitte. They could use off days to push them back a bit or even skip them entirely if fatigue becomes an issue. It’s a difficult thing to balance because the theoretical sixth starter has the remain stretched out, and if he’s the long man they’ll lose him out of the bullpen for a few days. If he’s in the minors they’ll have to make sure he’s lined up properly to pitch on whatever days. As I said, Pettitte is the big one for me since he hasn’t thrown a full season since 2009. The Yankees should monitor him carefully throughout the summer.

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Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are unwilling to give up a good prospect for Alfonso Soriano, nevermind a top prospect. He suspects they would absorb $10M of the $36M left on his contract, however.

Soriano, 37, had a nice bounceback year in 2012 after looking close to finished in 2011. As I wrote in a mailbag over the holidays, his resurgence looks to have been aided by a switch to a lighter bat. The Cubs are reportedly willing to pay $26M of Soriano’s contract, but they want a quality piece in return. I’m not quite sure with the Yankees would do with him other than use him as the right-handed hitting outfielder/Travis Hafner injury replacement, but they could have signed Scott Hairston for like half the money to do that.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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Holiday Mailbag: Alfonso Soriano

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(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.

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Got seven questions for you this week, so consider this a jumbo-sized edition of the mailbag. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions and whatnot.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Countless people asked some variation of: Can/should the Yankees sign Melky Cabrera to a cheap one-year deal after the season following his suspension?

Sure, it’s worth exploring. Based on my last few days at MLBTR, the fans of the other 29 teams are wondering the same thing as well. I suppose the Yankees may have a leg up considering their history with Cabrera, plus the fact that his good buddy Robinson Cano plays here. Either way, I’m sure the club can make a competitive offer if they’re so inclined.

The real question is what kind of hitter do you expect him to be going forward? I don’t buy that testosterone alone turned him into an MVP caliber hitter, but I also don’t think this season’s performance — .346/.390/.516 (146 wRC+) — is a reasonable expectation going forward simply because I don’t believe anyone is a true talent .346 hitter. Not Melky, not Mike Trout, not Miguel Cabrera, not Derek Jeter. No one. If he’s more of a .310 hitter doing forward, that’s still really awesome and shouldn’t be considered a knock. If they can get him for one-year at like, $5-8M to shore up the outfield next season, sure that’s something they should seriously consider. Whether or not it’s actually realistic is another matter entirely.

Daniel asks: The Cubs are offering to turn Alfonso Soriano into a $3M/year player. Any interest in him as a RF solution next season?

This is an unequivocal no for me. Soriano is having a real nice .263/.320/.448 (112 wRC+) year with the bat, but he’s a 36-year-old one-dimensional player. If he’s not hitting homers, he has zero value. Soriano doesn’t walk, doesn’t hit for average, doesn’t steal bases anymore, and doesn’t play much defense either. He’s under contract through 2014 so you’re talking about a $6M commitment for a player that is basically a bad HR/FB% slump away from a forced retirement. Soriano would be like, my Plan F for right field next season.

Brett asks: Let’s say the Yankees don’t re-sign Nick Swisher this offseason and then think like you and let Cano walk after 2013. With Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson (Yankees sign him after Cano leaves) all two years older and currently not even performing that well, as well as a black hole offensively at catcher, do you really think the Yankees lineup will be good enough?

I spy a nice free agent payday. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Well that’s the thing, why are we assuming catcher is a black hole? If they let Cano and Swisher walk, the Yankees will have the opportunity to turn over the second base, right field, catcher, and DH positions in the next two offseason. If you think A-Rod is resigned to being a DH down the line, then you can bring in a new body for third base. That four of the nine lineup spots they have to work with. Plenty of room to add some offensive punch.

Bill asks: So with Swisher all but assuredly leaving next year, what do you think the chances are he ends up in Boston? The team needs some pop in right field and they need a good clubhouse guy, with everything that is going on in Boston right now. Think this is a possibility?

Absolutely. If for whatever reason the Yankees had declined his option last offseason, I think the Red Sox would have been the first team to call Swisher’s agent. Pretty much every contending team in need of a bat — the Rangers, Dodgers, Braves, Tigers, Giants, Reds, etc. — figures to have some interest because he’s versatile (corner outfield or first base) and a switch-hitter. Swisher could go 0-for-October and he’ll still have plenty of suitors on the free agent market after the winter.

Sal asks: Do you think we’ll ever get to a point where teams start structuring contracts so that players are paid appropriately in their peak years but the contract dollars are “tapered” in the end years so that they don’t over pay for a players decline?

No, definitely not. I’m sure the club would love it, but I highly doubt the players and agents would. I think it’s pretty normal to want to make more money the older you get, which is why most multi-year contracts include some kind of year-to-year raise. Another part of this is that most GMs won’t be around to see the end of the multi-year contracts they hand out, specifically the big six and seven-year ones. What do I care if I saddle the next GM with a back contract when I could win right now and enhance my reputation? It’s a good idea, but I don’t think the players and agents would go for it.

I found this floating around on Twitter and have no idea where it originated, but props to you good sir (or madam).

Tucker asks: This is a bit of a hypothetical, but would the Yankees even have the pieces to acquire Felix Hernandez if he were made available? Could the Rangers swoop in and nab him instead?

No, I don’t believe the Yankees have the pieces to acquire any kind of high-end talent like that right now. Not unless they’re willing to dangle Cano and the other club really values him despite being a year away from free agency. The lack of impact, near-MLB ready prospect really hurts them here.

The Rangers could certainly jump in and make a great offer for Felix if they wanted — if you’re Seattle, don’t you have to listen if Texas offers Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt? I have to think that would at least get their attention. The Yankees can’t put together any kind of offer like that right now, so they’re handcuffed on the trade market. As much as I’d love to see him in pinstripes, there’s just no realistic trade scenario for Justin Upton at the moment.

Craig asks: Do you think Freddy Garcia is now (or should be) in the post-season rotation?  Even if Andy Pettitte comes back?  I think I’d rather take my chances with him than Ivan Nova or Phil Hughes.

Right now, with both CC Sabathia and Pettitte on the shelf, yes Freddy would definitely be in postseason rotation. I’d probably have him start Game Two behind Hiroki Kuroda in that scenario, which is … yikes. If Sabathia and Pettitte come back, I would use Freddy as the fourth starter and stick Phil Hughes in the bullpen for October. I don’t see how they could trust Nova in the postseason given his current performance, but he does have about six weeks to figure things out.

Assuming David Phelps is headed back to the bullpen at some point, I’d rank the potential playoff starters are Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Garcia, Hughes, Nova. Just remove players and bump everyone else up as needed due to injury. I don’t think it’s out of the question that Phelps pitches his way ahead of Nova in the pecking order, but I wouldn’t count on it. I think he’ll run out of innings before that happens.

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Twenty minutes later, Luis Gonzalez totally ruined this moment for everyone. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta)

For Yankee fans in the early part of the 21st Century, few players in pinstripes elicited as much excitement as Alfonso Soriano. He was tall and thin — sinewy almost — and with a bat speed that simply wowed the crowd. His home runs were majestic; his speed on the base paths blazing. He made it look so easy, but after a rapid rise, he quickly fell out of favor. It would change the Yanks forever.

Signed as an international free agent out of Japan, Soriano made his Yankee debut in September of 1999, and he quickly made a mark. His first Yankee hit was a walk-off home run against Norm Charlton and the Devil Rays on a Friday night in the Bronx, and as Chuck Knoblauch began to suffer from baseball-induced psychosis in 2000, Soriano’s hot hitting drew raves.

In 2001, Soriano emerged as the Yanks’ starting second baseman, and he had a respectable rookie campaign. He hit .268 but with only a .304 on-base percentage and slugged .432. He did steal 43 bases and finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. For a few minutes at the end of Game 7 of the World Series, it seemed as though Soriano would emerge as the hero. His 8th inning home run off of Curt Schilling gave the Yanks a 2-1 lead with Mariano looming. But alas.

Still, Soriano seemed to use that home run as a spring board to greatness, and the next season was truly his break-out campaign. He struck out too often and walked just 23 times, but he still hit .300/.332/.547 with 39 home runs and 41 stolen bases. It was good enough for a third place MVP finish. In 2003, the power dipped, but the patience improved. He hit .290/.338/.525 with 38 home runs but stole just 35 bases.

Yet, rumblings of displeasure were emerging out of the Yankee camp with Soriano. In the playoffs against Boston and the Marlins, Soriano went just 9 for 55 and struck out 20 times. He was benched in the World Series, and the Yankees seemed to think that he spent too much admiring his home runs and not enough time closing the holes in his swing. When destiny intervened in February, the Yanks did not hesitate to send Soriano off to the Rangers.

As Alex Rodriguez came to New York, Soriano went to Texas, bound for a last-place team. The Yanks had no real clear successor to Soriano at second base as Robinson Cano was still just a prospect, and those close to the Yanks were sad to see Soriano go. “We gave up a great player” Yogi Berra said to the Daily News. “Once he learns the strike zone, he’ll be even better.”

Others shared Yogi’s sentiments. “He’s got a long way to go. He hasn’t even come near reaching his potential. “I was excited to see him grow and develop into the player he is,” Jorge Posada said during the early days of Spring Training. “A-Rod is an exciting player, but Alfonso is pretty similar. He’s going to develop into an A-Rod. He has that potential, and when everything is said and done, when he’s 32, we’ll talk about Soriano as the best player in the big leagues.”

Of course, things didn’t quite turn out A-Rodian for Soriano. He gained two years of age when he was traded, and suddenly, the Yanks had sent not an up-and-comer to the Rangers but someone just a year younger than A-Rod west. Both teams knew of the age discrepancy at the time of the trade.

Since leaving the Bronx, Soriano has had an uneven career. He never did find the strike zone as Yogi thought he would, but he has belted 216 home runs in the intervening seven seasons. As he’s aged, his stolen bases have trailed off to just five last season, and he’s battled hamstring problems while playing the outfield for the Cubs. He’s under contract in Chicago for another four years, and the Cubs still owe him $72 million. They’d move him if they could.

When Soriano hit 46 home runs for the Nationals in 2006 and the Yanks grappled with mid-decade failures, it seemed as though he would become the one who got away from the Yanks, but time has a way of changing things. These days Alfonso Soriano is working to regain that stroke and consistency he once flashed in the Bronx. He’s fifth in strike outs since his 2001 season and eighth in home runs. Alex Rodriguez, of course, leads baseball in the former category over the last ten years, and despite those fears and a very respectable career, Soriano never did become an A-Rod-like player. Almost, but not quite.

Categories : Musings
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