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Numbers Game: Yankees bring back Soriano

Scott Cullen
7/26/2013 12:47:43 PM
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Sorely needing right-handed power in their batting order, the New York Yankees turned back the clock to add a player who was a core part of their 2001 through 2003 playoff teams.

Numbers Game looks at the Yankees acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Chicago Cubs.

The Yankees Get: LF Alfonso Soriano.

Soriano, 37, has his flaws -- chief among them, poor plate discipline that leads to a low on-base percentage -- but he remains a productive power hitter and the Yankees, desperate for anything resembling pop from the right side of the plate, acquired him in the hopes that his power would bring life to their struggling lineup.

This season had largely been a struggle for Soriano until late June. Through his first 72 games, Soriano hit seven home runs, with 30 RBI, hitting .245 with a .666 OPS. In the 21 games since, Soriano has slugged 10 homers and driven in 21 runs, batting .286 with a 1.014 OPS in 21 games. Despite that recent power surge, Soriano is still an on-base liability, as his .287 on-base percentage represents the lowest mark of his career (for a season in which he played at least 25 games).

With so many players on the injured list for most of the season, including Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis, the Yankees have, not surprisingly, struggled offensively.

The Yankees currently rank 12th in the American League in runs scored (395), 14th in home runs (88) and 14th in OPS (.678), the latter two categories ranking only ahead of the Houston Astros, a team with an Opening Day payroll of about $26-million, or less than the $28-million that the Yankees owed A-Rod to not play for them this season.

As bad as the overall struggles have been for the Yankees' offence, it's dramatically worse from the right side of the plate. The top right-handed power threat in the Yankees lineup has been LF Vernon Wells, who has 10 home runs, hitting .240 with a .654 OPS. As if those numbers aren't bad enough, Wells' last home run was May 15, so he's currently gone 182 at-bats since his last home run; remember, this is the most productive right-handed hitter in the Yankees' lineup this season. Wells can platoon with Travis Hafner at designated hitter and fill in as an extra outfielder for the rest of this season.

While advanced metrics, like Ultimate Zone Rating, have reflected favourably on Soriano's defence in recent years, there are questions about sample size particularly as it pertains to outfielders, so it's probably reasonable not to expect too much from Soriano in the field at this stage of his career.

According to ESPN, the Cubs will pay about $17.7 million of the $24.5 million due to Soriano through the end of next season. If that means Soriano fills a depth role next season as well, as a designated hitter and extra outfielder, the cost isn't necessarily prohibitive.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, though, and the Yankees' punchless attack leaves them 6.5-games behind Boston for the American League East lead. Something had to be done and, even if Soriano isn't the most complete player at this point of his career, he's an upgrade on what the Yankees have been trotting out on an everyday basis; it would be difficult to be worse.

The Cubs Get: RHP Corey Black.

Black is a 21-year-old who was drafted in the fourth round last summer out of Faulkner University. In 19 starts for Single-A Tampa this season, Black is 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, but he has struck out 88 in 82 2/3 IP. His trouble appears to be command, as he's walked 45.

He's only 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, but Black has an overpowering fastball that gets up into the mid-90s. With further development, which has to include improved control, he could turn into a power bullpen arm for the Cubs.

As the Cubs play out the string this year, there will be chances for players to audition in left field. Soriano has played 86 of 100 games in left field, so no one else has really seen significant time there.

Junior Lake, a 23-year-old who was recently called up (hitting .484 with a 1.284 OPS in his first seven MLB games) has been playing mostly centre field, but he played infield in the minors and played left field in Soriano's absence Thursday, so Lake would seem the best bet to get regular playing time ahead of the Cubs' cast of journeymen outfielders that includes Julio Borbon, Cole Gillespie and Dave Sappelt.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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