The New York Yankees traded for Alfonso Soriano before the July 31st deadline and he hasn’t exactly dazzled since his return to the Bronx. To be fair, Soriano isn’t the same player who had the most hits, runs, and stolen bases, like he was back in 2002 when he finished third in the AL MVP race. Since then, he has dwindled into an average fielding outfielder with some pop. The Yankees were desperate enough to acquire him for minor leaguer Corey Black, whom some see as a potential back-of-the-rotation guy. The club is only on the hook for around $7 million of the $21 million left on his contract, as the Chicago Cubs will pay the rest as part of the agreement.
So now we’ll jump into what Soriano has accomplished this season and it’s not all that much, especially with the Yankees. With the Cubs he hit .254/.287/.467 (101 wRC+) in 383 plate appearances, which is just above league average. He’s never been a walk machine (5.9% career BB/9), but he’s walked even less this year (3.9% with the Cubs). Meanwhile, his strikeout rates have stayed around his norm (23.2% with the Cubs this season). His .213 ISO with the Cubs this year showed that he still has some pop, but that hasn’t translated in the Bronx where it has dropped to .185 in 56 plate appearances.
I’ll admit, 56 PAs does not make a season, and it’s a relatively small sample size, but he’s been dreadful at the plate since joining the Yankees. His .204/.232/.389 (64 wRC+) while with the Yanks isn’t much of an upgrade than what they have in Vernon Wells (.241/.285/.364. with a 74 wRC+). His strikeout rate has risen to Mark Reynolds heights (32.1% K/9 since joining the club), while his walk rate has decreased even more than his paltry numbers before the trade (3.6%).
The 37-year-old outfielder has some time to figure things out, after all the Yankees will trot him out next year as well. Soriano has the propensity to go on streaks and be hot for a week or two at a time. Unfortunately, the Yankees are already filled to the brim with those types of players. Many Yankees — I like to think the rational ones follow this line of thinking — thought that this move reeked of desperation, when the team was only three games out of a Wild Card spot. Now the club is close to a double-digit deficit from qualifying for a playoff spot and their savior isn’t saving anything other than helping the team better position themselves for the 2014 Amateur Draft.
This isn’t to say I don’t want Soriano to succeed in pinstripes, I have many fond memories of his hey day with the Yanks and I hope we can relive those moments one more time. The Yanks better hope he can offer some value next year, as he represents a stop-gap for the team while they wait for Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, and Mason Williams to (hopefully) emerge.
However, the numbers are too damning and the Yankees brass have really backed themselves into a corner with these types of signings and trades for older players. For every success story (Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia), there are ten disappointments (Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Wells). Soriano is fewer than 60 PAs into his reunification with the Yanks, so he has time to turn things around, but his age, dwindling bat speed, and poor eye leave much to be desired.