What dwindling bat speed? I have your bat flip right here! Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees Alfonso Soriano and His Slump in Pinstripes

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.

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Tags: Alfonso Soriano New York Yankees

  • ikkf

    This trade was disappointing to me, not because of Soriano’s lack of production but because the Yanks should have been doing a trade like this in reverse. I think it was clear at the time that the season was lost and management could have learned a thing or two from the Mets when they traded Carlos Beltran and shopped Cano and some of the other guys. Really, the last thing the Yanks need is another aging rent-a-vet.

    • Jimmy Kraft

      Well, to be fair, the Yankees season wasn’t lost at that point. They were still very much in the Wild Card race, when they were a mere three games back. I didn’t think the trade made them all that much better at the time, but it also didn’t cost them “too” much in return. Paying only $7M for 1.5 years of him isn’t the end of the world. At the very least, he’s a stopgap OF-type until the youngsters mature and develop a tad more.

      I don’t think it was the worst trade the Yankees have made recently *cough* Vernon Wells *cough*

      • ikkf

        I see where you’re coming from, but even though they were only three games back, I think any run at the wild card at that point would have hinged on too many if’s: Jeter returning and regaining his 2012 form, A-Rod returning and regaining his 2009 form, Andy Pettite getting three years younger, Sabathia and Hughes suddenly straightening things out, Hafner and Wells remembering how to hit, etc.

        I like Soriano, but I really feel they shouldn’t have given up a good young arm like Corey Black for him. Hal at the very least should have waited until the last minute ‘cos it wasn’t like teams were banging down Theo’s door for Soriano. Hal is such an amateur.

        • Jimmy Kraft

          This entire season has been full of “ifs” really. I guess in hindsight it’s really foolish to think older players can just brush off their long-term injuries and provide the same production they’re accustom to. The fluke injuries for Granderson, and Tex’s bum wrist (kinda fluky, but mostly broke down from overuse) aren’t things most Yankees fans think would happen before the season, and the re-injuries during the season.

          I can get past the injury fact, I just can’t get past the fact that the Yankees brass is trying to pass their signings/trades as a means to improving the team. I know it makes little business sense to say ‘Well, this is a rebuilding year!” But, don’t try to fool your fans into thinking Stewart, Nunez, Wells, Hafner, Youkilis make this team competitive in the short term.

          Remember, the Yanks are only paying a third of Soriano’s contract, which includes only about $5M next year. So the deal in and of itself is pretty ideal for the amount of production he “could” provide. The outfield will be plenty crowded with subpar talent next year (Soriano, Wells, and Ichiro). Hopefully, Granderson takes the qualifying offer (stupid if the Yankees don’t offer him one, as they will either get him for one year around $15M or a first-round pick if declines and signs elsewhere). Soriano, Wells, and Ichiro can fight for playing time in RF and DH. I have a feeling Wells could be let go before the start of the 2014 season, as his contract doesn’t count at all against the cap next year and Zoilo Almonte provides just as much production.

  • Jimmy Kraft

    Sure enough, I write a piece on Soriano’s slump and he goes out and hits two home runs and drives in six runs! Looks like I’ll be writing about other slumping Yankees in hopes that they’ll come out of their season-long slumps too.

  • Bill B

    I enjoyed your article and exchanges. I would like to point out that the season is not over. 5 1/2 back.

    • Jimmy Kraft

      Bill, I’ve missed you, buddy! Glad you enjoyed it.

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