It’s official. Alfonso Soriano is back in Yankee Pinstripes. The much rumored deal that had the former Yankee second baseman returning for a Bronx encore finally went through earlier today. The 37-year old seven-time All-Star comes over from the Cubs for Single-A pitching prospect Corey Black. A 21-year old former fourth round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.
In his 15th year in the bigs, Soriano batted .251 with 17 home runs and 51 RBI’s with 10 stolen bases for the Cubs. He’s closing in on his 12th straight season of 20 homers or more. Since finishing third for AL Rookie Of The Year behind new Yankee teammates Ichiro Suzuki and C.C. Sabathia, he’s slugged 30+ homers in six seasons including last year when he had 32. The most since hitting 33 in ’07. His first year at Wrigley Field after signing an eight-year $136 million contract. That followed a career year with the Nationals in which he reached the 40/40 Club with 46 dingers and 41 steals.
Soriano returns to the Yankees for the first time in a decade after being dealt to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez. In three-plus years in the Bronx, he cracked 98 homers, drove in 270 and stole 121 bases. Ironically, the biggest swing was a two-run homer off Curt Schilling in Game Seven of the 2001 World Series that put the Yanks ahead. But after he retired the Diamondbacks in order, legendary closer Mariano Rivera couldn’t duplicate it in the ninth, blowing the save on Luis Gonzalez’ Series clinching two-run bloop single with the bases loaded.
Now, Soriano is back where it all started. He’s batting cleanup in his first game back with the Yankees hosting the wildcard leading Rays at Yankee Stadium. He’s back in a playoff race. The Cubs are eating most of the remaining $28 million on his contract that expires following 2014. The Yanks get a much needed righty power bat they hope can give them a jolt. They trail the Orioles by two and a half for the second wild card. At the very least, he’ll protect Robinson Cano, who essentially replaced him at second. Ironically, he’s in the final year of his contract and must be re-signed. An even better player, Cano will score a huge payday.
It’s an interesting time for the Yankees. They are desperate to stay in the race and bring back the free swinging Soriano who former manager Dale Sveum praised for his work ethic and preparation. How will he do? Will it be a great sequel or a bust? The Yanks didn’t give up much with Black only in his second year as a pro. He was 3-8 with Single-A Tampa posting a 4.23 ERA in 19 starts. However, he’s a strikeout pitcher averaging over a K per inning with 88 in 82.2 IP. At the very least, the Cubs retained a power arm for the future for a guy they couldn’t wait to dump. It comes on the heels of moving ace Matt Garza to Texas for prospects Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm. Garza picked up his first win for the Rangers over the Yanks.