When the New York Yankees traded for this former superstar, it was like reuniting with an old high school friend. Alfonso, how’s it been? How was your trip to Washington? And Chicago? And that foreign exchange program in Texas?
It has been nine years, nine months, and nine days since the Yankees transferred Soriano for Alex Rodriguez. While A-Rod was crushing the ball on the east coast (like him or not he did win MVP twice), Alfonso Soriano performed well in his two seasons with the Texas Rangers, earning all-star and silver slugger honors at second base. A December 8, 2005 trade sent Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Armando Galarraga, Terrmel Sledge, and Brad Wilkerson.
Ironically, neither team won in this deal; Soriano only stayed in the nation’s capital for one season while the trio for the Rangers never made a lasting impact there. However, the former Yankee went through a position change from second base to the outfield, and became just the fourth player to surpass 40 homers and 40 steals in the same season, after Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, and Rodriguez.
As great of a season 2006 was, Soriano entered free agency as a transcendent 31 year-old ball player who could hit, run, and throw (22 outfield assists in 2006). He signed in the Windy City with the Chicago Cubs, agreeing to a 8yr/$136 Mil contract, and ready to conquer the National League with Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.
However, the next few years were more or less defined by mediocrity for the inhabitants of Wrigley Field, despite the fact that our featured player always hit at least 20 home runs each season. Nevertheless, Soriano became an unpopular player under a franchise with a disgruntled fan base. Last year, the Cubs wanted to trade him, and the Yankees took him on a lark. To the joy of the Yankees and the chagrin of the Cubs, Soriano flourished once again in New York, reaching similar statistics in half as many games for the Yankees as he did for Chicago.
So what should the Yankees and the fans expect from Soriano now? He will be 38 years old when the 2014 season starts, but he appears to still be agile enough to play the outfield on a nightly basis. He has shown he can still scoot, too, with 18 swiped bags last season. Plus, his main asset was his power last year, as he bat cleanup fairly often last year. Historically, even players older than Soriano have been able to knock a few balls out of the park (see Ibanez, Raul). Expecting Alfonso Soriano to continue his ridiculous second half streak might be a little unreasonable, but another 20 homer season in a generous fly ball park wouldn’t be too surprising.
However, the key for Soriano is to have fun. In many games last year, he had a smile on his face. In Chicago, it seemed that the wind suppressed his joy of baseball. After all, there is a direct correlation between happiness and performance. Hopefully he enjoys his extended stay in the Big Apple.
Alfonso Soriano is a veteran. He has experience and ability. He provided a spark into a struggling lineup, and nearly propelled the Yankees into the playoffs. He put the Bombers back into the Bronx. With Mark Teixeira returning from his wrist injury and with newcomer Brian McCann playing catcher, there won’t be pressure for Soriano to ignite the offense by himself. If Derek Jeter and his legs return to full strength, then Soriano will be a cog on a very dangerous Yankee team.
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