The second Alfonso Soriano era in New York isn’t off to the most fantastic beginning — the Yankees are on the verge of being swept at home by the first-place Tampa Bay Rays, and Soriano is 0 for 8 in his first two games back in pinstripes — because there’s a lot more wrong with the New York Yankees than one aging outfielder with a league average bat can fix on his own. But Soriano wasn’t brought in to right to the ship; he’s in town to help it sink more gracefully.
The Yankees are historically bad right now from the right side of the plate. Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus has a breakdown of just how bad right here. Soriano’s .754 OPS as a Cub this year immediately leads all of the Yankees’ current right-handed options, and even including the club’s disabled list, Francisco Cervelli is the only righty to hit better than him this year. A .754 OPS and bad defense in left isn’t going to fix the infield (sans Robinson Cano), de-age Ichiro Suzuki, or get Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia out of their rough patch, but it will at least take some at-bats away from the dismal Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells.
By far the most important thing about Soriano to the Yankees, though, is that he’s specifically Alfonso Soriano: a guy who, in the middle of a terrible season that only happened because of enforced austerity by Yankees ownership, might remind fans of those times when George Steinbrenner’s teams won the World Series (even though he didn’t become an every-day player with the Yankees until the year after those teams won their last World Series). That New York could afford to take on his and Wells’ contracts this year and next, throw a bunch of money at Suzuki and Kevin Youkilis, but still not find any money for Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez or any other real free-agent acquisitions speaks volumes about the priorities of Yankees management at the moment.
In fairness to the Yankees, the austerity thing might not have been a major embarrassment if all their aging players hadn’t gotten hurt, rehabbed and then gotten hurt immediately after returning from rehab — no team has enough depth to replace five veteran starting position players and still play championship baseball. Soriano should nonetheless be a helpful bat (by certain definitions of the word), and Chicago will be paying the majority of his salary this year and next. Now, having gone through the motions of finding someone at the deadline who gives season-ticket holders warm fuzzies about George’s old teams (and hopefully keeps some of them from cancelling any partial or full-season plans they might have for next year), the Yankees can continue to free fall their way through the American League East standings and come back next year when hopefully they’re more serious about winning.
And as for Corey Black, Yankees fans shouldn’t be gnashing their teeth or wailing over surrendering him; he’s striking out a bunch of guys in High A ball right now, but just about any pitching prospect with a live fastball is going to do that when not facing advanced hitters. That fastball is essentially all he has going for him as a prospect. Unless he significantly improves his command of that pitch and the quality and control of all his off-speed offerings, his ceiling is a good middle reliever. Not a great haul for Chicago, but better than nothing — and Cubs fan weren’t expecting too much in return for that contract anyway.