Ten seasons ago, the New York Yankees traded their best homegrown prospect since Derek Jeter to the Texas Rangers for a guy named Alex Rodríguez. Today, Alfonso Soriano returns to the Yankees in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, who are having a wholesale on their roster, and will rejoin the team in the Bronx.
Rodríguez is still a Yankee, however he won’t be in the lineup. Soriano should be in left field and somewhere near the heart of the lineup, providing the Yankees a much-needed shot in the arm on offense. The Yankees are near the bottom in almost every offensive category, and are slowly letting the American League East slip away. Soriano’s inclusion in the lineup should help; he and his 17 homeruns will be second on the roster to only Robinson Canó’s 21.
From 2001-2003, Soriano strung together three of the most impressive offensive season’s by a Yankee second baseman in the history of the club, until Canó came along at least. He hit 39 and 38 homeruns in 2002 and 2003, respectively, while stealing over 40 bases each season. A few seasons later, with the Washington Nationals, he finally reached the 40-40 mark with 46 homeruns and 41 stolen bases. When he accomplished that feat, he joined three other players in the history of the game to have done so: José Canseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. A week after becoming the fourth 40-40 player, he became the first player to hit 40 homeruns, steal 40 bases and hit 40 doubles in one seasons.
After the Yankees, Soriano first went on to play with the Rangers — who he was traded to by the Yankees — before being traded again to the Washington Nationals for a few players. He spent two seasons in Texas and one season in Washington before the Chicago Cubs signed the slugger to an eight-year deal worth $136 million in 2007. He is currently in the penultimate season of that contract, and with the trade to the Yankees, will be in pinstripes for the rest of this season and all of next year — barring any trade from the Yankees. The Cubs will pick up the majority of Soriano’s remaining money — the Yankees will be responsible for approximately $6.8 million over the next two years.
The long term — if a season-and-a-half counts as long term — plan for Soriano isn’t clear. The Yankees were desperate for hitting and only through a wealth of injuries and underproduction were forced to bring in the 37-year-old Dominican. Curtis Granderson, their all-star center fielder who was supposed to take over in left this year with Brett Gardner moving to center, has been hurt all season with two separate broken bone injuries after being hit by pitches. He is set to return sometime in the next few weeks, giving the Yankees a bit of a logjam in the outfield. Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki are mainstays in center and right, and Vernon Wells needs his reps at both left and designated hitter. Soriano will likely share those opportunities with Wells so they both are getting ample at-bats. But it seems like it’s Soriano’s everyday job to lose. Previously, the Yankees were enjoying the success of 24-year-old rookie Zoilo Almonte a few weeks back before he landed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle. Upon his return, he might find himself without the job he had stolen away from Wells in June. Though since he has options, he will likely be sent back down to triple-A until September when the rosters expand to 40.
The one thing the Yankees haven’t had to deal with all season long is having too much talent and not enough playing time. So the Yankees will welcome this potential problem with open arms. Soriano is still producing at a high rate for an older player, and his playoff heroics from the earlier part of last decade might instill some late season magic for the lethargic Yankees.