Numerous fans criticized the New York Yankees‘ front office for the decision to bring in outfielder Alfonso Soriano at the trade deadline. Today, they should thank their lucky stars that Soriano is in pinstripes again, because a little more than a month into his second go-round with the Yankees, he doesn’t just look like a bargain, he looks like a steal.
Soriano hit two home runs (the second of which was the 400th of his career) in the Yankees’ 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night. He drove in four runs and, perhaps most incredibly, pulled even with fellow outfielder Vernon Wells for the team lead in home runs by a righty (11), despite the fact Wells has more than three times as many at-bats in a Yankee uniform.
Most importantly, from the moment he started playing with the Yankees, Soriano has added one more bat for opposing teams to fear in their lineup, which is one more than they had before he arrived in New York. Up to then, the only hitter opposing teams truly feared was second baseman Robinson Cano. Now, there are threats from both sides of the plate in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup, which makes late-game bullpen maneuvering much more difficult.
In the 30 games Soriano has played for the Yankees, their previously anemic offense has scored double-digit runs in a game three times, and their average runs per game has gone up to nearly 4.5 after holding at only 3.89 up to that point.
Certainly, Soriano is not the only reason for the Yankees’ recent offensive surge. Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson have returned to the lineup from injury and provided powerful bats as well. It is hard to argue, however, that the biggest jolt to the Yankees’ offense hasn’t been the injection of Soriano into the middle of the batting order.
There is little doubt that Soriano came back to New York with something to prove. He was considered washed-up and overpaid with the Chicago Cubs, who were happy to cast him away to any team that would be willing to take on the rest of his eight-year, $136 million contract. Luckily for them, the Yankees were willing to eat a portion of it. They paid only $1.8 million for his services through the end of this season, and will pick up $5 million of the $18 million he will be paid next season.
In return, the Yankees have gotten a legitimate right-handed home run threat, something they severely lacked since Russell Martin, Andruw Jones and Mark Teixeira went down with a season-ending wrist injury. In addition, the Yankees have made up a significant amount of ground in the standings, as they are trailing by only four and a half games for the second wild-card spot. If they are to complete the comeback and play baseball in October, they will have to thank Soriano for the punch he has provided to a lineup that had seemingly no life before.