Alfonso Soriano Rumors
In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Keith Law blasted the North Carolina State coaching staff's decision to let Carlos Rodon throw 134 pitches in a start on Friday night. Rodon is expected to be one of the top picks in June's amateur draft, yet Law felt the southpaw's promising future was being risked by a coaching staff desperate to reach the NCAA tournament.
Here's some news from around the Majors...
- If Alfonso Soriano doesn't retire at season's end, he'd like to play through 2016, preferably as a member of the Yankees, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (Insider-only link). If he has a tough season this year, however, Soriano will retire. The veteran outfielder is in last year of his contract and has previously discussed retiring after 2014, as Soriano's health will also factor into his decision.
- Bobby Abreu is hitting .500 in Triple-A and is "the best hitter Las Vegas has got by far," a talent evaluator tells Mike Puma of the New York Post. Since Abreu can opt out of his minor league deal on April 30, the Mets will have to make a decision soon, and they could free up a roster spot by moving one of Ike Davis or Lucas Duda.
- The Brewers have a dozen players making the Major League minimum salary (or slightly above), and this influx of cheap, young talent helps the smaller-market club afford the six $10MM+ salaries on the payroll, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes.
- Scheduling and tougher PED testing/penalities are two factors for increased injuries this season, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman. Travel during both the regular season and Spring Training has become more arduous at a time when players' bodies might not be recovering as quickly due to a lack of performance enhancers.
- Baseball America's Matt Eddy recaps the week's minor league transactions.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Ubaldo Jimenez was introduced today by the Orioles, saying that he is looking forward to putting the "nightmare" of past inconsistency in the rearview mirror. Executive VP Dan Duqutte said that Jimenez was attractive to Baltimore because "he's been a proven, solid, dependable pitcher," and explained that he saw potential for new pitching coach Dave Wallace to help Jimenez maintain his form from the second half of last year. MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli has a full transcript from the presser.
Here's more from the AL East:
- Orioles young star Manny Machado is scheduled for a key visit with his doctor in the middle of March which could determine when he'll be ready to suit up, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). If he is cleared to play at that point, the hope is that Machado would be prepared for game action within the first few weeks of the season.
- Machado tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that being ready for Opening Day is last on his list of priorities: "That’s at the bottom of my list. It’s not even on my list, to be honest," says Machado. Instead, Machado and the Orioles are focused on making sure he's 100 percent when he takes the field. Says Machado: "When I’m ready, I’m going to be ready. And everybody’s going to know it. And that’s when I’m going to be out there with the team, whether it’s Opening Day or sometime in April."
- Red Sox DH David Ortiz and agent Fern Cuza met with club oficials today -- including representatives from the ownership group -- to discuss his contract status, reports WEEI.com's Alex Speier.
- Ortiz has not been shy about discussing his contract situation publicly, and the team has likewise consistently indicated a willingness to talk. Speier breaks things down from a baseball perspective, arguing that Ortiz has in fact expressed a willingness to give his team a legitimate discount. The notion of adding another year to his current contract at about the same annual rate ($15MM) is valuable, says Speier, because it keeps him off of an open market that could well pay him more. Though he is aging, Ortiz's bat has shown little sign of slowing, and he would surely draw real interest from a power-sapped free agent market. Even if the slugger takes a step back, says Speier, Boston's payroll situation makes the downside scenario a reasonable risk to bear.
- As for those payroll considerations, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said yesterday that the luxury tax may not be a firm line for the club going forward, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Though the club has "learned from" its experiences with major deals in the past, Henry said that the team is always looking for ways to leverage its "big-revenue" capabilities. Though he was somewhat unclear as to his reasoning, Henry said that "there's some reason to believe that [staying under the luxury threshold] may not be as important as we thought a couple years ago."
- Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano is considering retiring after the season, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. The 38-year-old said it will all come down to whether he feels healthy, but acknowledged the possibility that he could join teammate Derek Jeter in making this his last go-round. Soriano, who produced a .255/.302/.489 line with 34 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 626 plate appearances last year, will be playing out the final year of the eight-year, $136MM deal he signed with the Cubs back in November of 2006.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Let's have a look at a few stray notes before calling it an evening ...
- Nationals starter Taylor Jordan will be shut down for the year after throwing a combined 142 innings in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, reports James Wagner of the Washington Post. (For some reason, we've yet to hear of any outrage over the decision.) The 24-year-old emerged this season and became one of the few nice surprises for the sputtering Nats. With a 3.66 ERA over 51 2/3 innings, Jordan has certainly established himself as a viable rotation option for next year, which could impact the Nationals' off-season shopping plans. While Jordan registered only by 5.1 K/9 (against 1.9 BB/9), his FIP (3.48) and xFIP (3.79) backed up his solid results.
- With Orioles closer Jim Johnson continuing to struggle to finish games, CSN Baltimore's Rich Dubroff writes that he is increasingly becoming a non-tender candidate. Earning $6.5MM this year, Johnson should see a multi-million dollar raise through arbitration if the O's decide to hold onto him. (He does have 39 saves, best in baseball, to go with his league-worst 9 blown.) The team has a younger, cheaper option in Tommy Hunter who could step into the role, though Dubroff wonders if he can take on save chances with the same frequency as has Johnson.
- Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the details of the Phillies' firing of manager Charlie Manuel. The Phils' front office knew it was moving on without Manuel for months, says Gelb, but finally decided to pull the trigger now in order to have a look at his anticipated replacement, Ryne Sandberg.
- While the Yankees' acquisition of Alfonso Soriano drew a lot of criticism at the time, it is hard to complain about the performance he's put up since arriving in the Bronx. Depending upon how one works the statistics, in fact, his recent run is downright historic. In just 19 games with his new/old club, Soriano has racked up an outstanding 1.5 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference). Of course, the naysayers' concerns related more to the rest of the Yankees' team, and its reasonable prospects for the playoffs, than to Soriano himself. Sure enough, New York's playoff odds have continued to fall since the deal was consummated.
- Cubs' shortstop Javier Baez continues to tear the cover off of the ball as he ascends the minor-league ranks, making the 20-year-old a dark-horse candidate to earn a big league roster spot next year. As Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald writes, there are many good reasons (cost, control, and development among them) for the Cubs to be hesitant. Nevertheless, manager Dale Sveum noted, “when you have that kind of numbers and power, sometimes you do force the issue. It’s not in the plans right now, but we’ve all seen it happen.”
With the Red Sox losing the division lead for the first time in two months, here's the latest from a hotly contested American League East ...
- The deal that brought Alfonso Soriano back to the Yankees was consummated over the objections of GM Brian Cashman, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "I would say we are in a desperate time," said Cashman. "Ownership wants to go for it. I didn't want to give up a young arm." The club dealt young righty Corey Black (and took on salary) to add the 37-year-old Soriano. MLBTR's Steve Adams rounded up the reactions to the deal yesterday.
- Cashman's latest overruling continues a trend, Sherman further reports in the same piece. Most recently, Cashman reportedly preferred signing catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Nate Schierholtz this last offseason. Instead, ownership pushed a two-year, $13MM deal with Ichiro Suzuki. While the Yanks could have Martin and Schierholtz playing right now on one-year deals, says Sherman, the team instead has an aging Ichiro-Soriano combination set to earn $11.5MM next season.
- The Red Sox must add talent, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, or risk dropping back in a tight AL East race. Silverman opines that the club should call up top prospect Xander Bogaerts to provide much-needed pop from the left side of the infield. Meanwhile, with Clay Buchholz still not on a clear timetable and with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez choosing the Phillies over the Sox, Silverman says that Boston should also make a deal for a starter.
- Should Boston make a move to bolster its rotation, one player who could be dealt is third baseman Will Middlebrooks. WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports that Middlebrooks, who is trying to work his way back to the form he showed in his 2012 rookie campaign, has heard the rumors for the first time in his recollection. "I'm just trying to keep my nose out of it," Middlebrooks said. The 24-year-old indicated that he remains content in the Red Sox organization in spite of his struggles this year: "I have a good opportunity here. I don't need to get traded to have a good opportunity."
- Looking at Boston's recent history, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal suggests that the team could look to pick up a somewhat under-the-radar player that can contribute not just this season, but in the future. MacPherson notes that the Sox added catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2010), shortstop Mike Aviles (2011), and reliever Craig Breslow (2012) when the price proved right and the deal met the club's multi-year needs. This season, with Saltalamacchia nearing free agency and backup David Ross injured, the team could look to deal for a backstop with future control even as it gives playing time to prospect Ryan Lavarnway. MacPherson suggests the Padres' Nick Hundley as a possibility, while noting that San Diego could be hesitant to move him.
Earlier today, Major League Baseball approved a trade that sent Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees in exchange for right-hander Corey Black. The Cubs will pay $17.7MM of the remaining money on Soriano's contract, leaving the Yankees responsible for just $6.8MM. Here's some media reaction and analysis of the move...
- Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com says that the acquisition of another aging outfielder isn't enough for a "pieced-together" Yankees team. Soriano is an improvement on Vernon Wells, Knobler writes, but even with Soriano and the return of Derek Jeter, the Yankees' lineup still isn't a strong one, and C.C. Sabathia's recent struggles are worrisome as well.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes that the $7MM savings alone makes this a good move for the Cubs, pointing out that they signed Scott Feldman for less than that this offseason. The move helps the Yankees as well, he adds, noting that replacing Vernon Wells with a decent player is an upgrade. Cameron goes on to state that while the Yankees are paying Soriano to be exactly what he is ("a useful role player"), the Yankees aren't one useful role player away from making the playoffs, and they're starting to collect a lot of modestly priced, low-value players.
- ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider required) broke down the reasons why the trade is questionable for the Yankees but also the reasons that it makes sense, noting that the Yankees are just 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot in the American League.
- Scott Miller of CBS Sports opines that Soriano gives the Yankees some desperately needed power, noting that the club has received a staggering total of just one right-handed home run since May 23 -- a span of 767 at-bats. While Soriano isn't the player he once was, he provides the Yankees with the trait that they are most lacking.
- Baseball America's Matt Eddy offers an analysis of each player in the trade, noting that Black has one of the best arms from the Yankees' 2012 draft class, but that questions about his size might make a relief role his best path to the Majors.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Yankees were the only team to which Soriano would accept a trade (Twitter link).
- Prior to acquiring Soriano, the Yankees contacted the White Sox to express interest in Alex Rios, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter). The Yankees are on Rios' no-trade list and were informed that he would not approve a deal to the Bronx. Rios, however, says he was never approached about accepting a deal to the Yankees, Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports.
- Sherman also tweets that the Yankees have continued to contact the Phillies regarding Michael Young, but to this point they've been told that Young isn't available and might not become available at all.
The Cubs continued their trajectory as baseball's most active team on the trade front this morning when they officially traded Alfonso Soriano and $17.7MM to the Yankees in exchange for right-hander Corey Black. The deal saves the Cubs roughly $6.8MM and brings a power arm that was selected in the fourth round of last year's draft into their system. Here's more on Soriano and the rest of the NL Central...
- Soriano told Gordon Wittenymyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that he believes another team would've beaten the eight-year, $136MM contract he signed with the Cubs back in 2006. At least one team told Soriano's agent to give them a chance to beat any offer, but Soriano decided that he wanted the opportunity to join the storied history of the Cubs and bring a championship to Chicago.
- While Brewers GM Doug Melvin recently turned away an inquiry on Kyle Lohse, another Brewers-connected person implied to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that Lohse could be had for the right package of prospects.
- Within that same piece, one GM provided a long list of reasons that Yovani Gallardo isn't drawing interest. Gallardo's velocity is down, he's owed $15MM through 2014 and he also comes with off-the-field baggage in the form of a DUI arrest earlier this season.
- The Pirates announced today that Jason Grilli has a flexor strain in his right arm. He is not a candidate for surgery, which is good news for the Bucs, but he will still miss four to eight weeks. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the Pirates become more active in the bullpen trade market.
- Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon that he has had a lot of conversations but nothing substantial. The Reds would like to add a right-handed bat but feel they can wait until Ryan Ludwick returns from the disabled list. They have a similar stance on waiting for Johnny Cueto, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton.
Alfonso Soriano is heading back to the same team with which he began his Major League career. After stops in Texas and Washington and an extended stay in Chicago, Soriano has come full circle by officially waiving his no-trade rights to approve a trade to the Yankees. The Cubs will receive minor league right-hander Corey Black in the trade, which was approved by Major League Baseball this morning and later officially announced by the Yankees.
Soriano is in the seventh season of an eight-year, $136MM contract that he signed with the Cubs in November 2006. He has roughly $6.5MM remaining on this season's $18MM salary and will earn $18MM once again in 2014. The Yankees will pay just $6.8MM of the remaining money on that contract -- $1.8MM in 2013 and $5MM in 2014.
Black, 21, ranked as the Yankees' No. 25 prospect prior to the season, according to Baseball America. BA wrote that Black's fastball has touched 100 mph and sits comfortably at 95 mph. His plus athleticism allows him to repeat his release point, according to BA, and he also features an average changeup and improved slider to go along with a fringe curveball. The Yankees were developing him as a starter, though Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted earlier today that the Cubs view Black as a power reliever in the future. In 82 2/3 innings at High-A Tampa this season, the 2012 fourth-round pick has a 4.25 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9.
Reports that a trade was on the horizon first surfaced yesterday after Soriano was pulled from the Cubs' lineup. Manager Dale Sveum confirmed to reporters shortly after that a trade sending the longtime Cub to New York was "99 percent" complete.
The Yankees have been in the market for upgrades to their offense for quite some time, and while Soriano's OBP leaves something to be desired, he certainly still has power. Perhaps more important is the fact that he is of particular benefit against left-handed pitching. Soriano is hitting lefties at a .273/.310/.496 clip thus far in 2013, which will be a significant boost to a Yankees club that has batted just .234/.306/.338 against opposing southpaws.
The Cubs have been far and away the most active seller in baseball at this point, having traded Scott Feldman, Scott Hairston and Matt Garza prior to this deal. They're expected to continue their aggressive sale through the trade deadline next Wednesday.
Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune was the first to report (via Twitter) that Soriano had been pulled from the lineup and a trade was on the verge. USA Today's Bob Nightengale first reported that the deal was finished, pending MLB approval, and the Cubs would receive a Class-A pitcher. ESPN's Buster Olney broke the news regarding the exchange of cash (on Twitter), and Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio first reported that MLB had approved the deal (Twitter link). Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first to report that Black was the prospect Chicago would receive for Soriano (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
11:55pm: Soriano is taking a red-eye flight to New York, tweets Sullivan, though no deal has been announced yet.
8:58pm: Major League Baseball still needs to process the paperwork and the exchange of cash in the deal, tweets Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the deal isn't likely to happen tonight, as it's still pending Bud Selig's approval. The Cubs, according to Heyman, will pay more than half of the remaining money on Soriano's contract (Twitter links).
8:05pm: USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that the two sides have agreed on which pitching prospect will be going to the Cubs, and a deal has nearly been finalized.
6:56pm: ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Cubs are likely to receive a lower-tier pitching prospect for Soriano and that they will eat the majority of the money remaining on Soriano's contract. The two sides are waiting for the formal waiving of Soriano's no-trade clause (Twitter links).
6:33pm: Alfonso Soriano has been scratched from the Cubs' lineup tonight because he is close to being traded to the Yankees, Cubs manager Dale Sveum confirmed to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Sullivan adds that Sveum referred to the trade as "99 percent done."
Reports of a Soriano deal between the Yankees and Cubs first surfaced earlier this week, but general manager Jed Hoyer shot them down, calling them "premature." This time, however, Cubs president Theo Epstein has told Sveum that a deal is nearly complete, as noted by MLB.com's Carrie Muskat (on Twitter). Soriano, who can refuse any trade due to a full no-trade clause (he's also a 10-and-5 player at this point), confirmed yesterday that he would be open to joining the Yankees.
Soriano, 37, would be joining the team with which he broke into the Major Leagues back in 1999. The Dominican native played with the Bombers from 1999-2003 before being traded to the Rangers along with Joaquin Arias for Alex Rodriguez. In 383 plate appearances for the Cubs this season, Soriano is batting .254/.287/.467 with 17 home runs.
Ryan Braun has yet to address the public regarding his 65-game suspension for his involvement with Tony Bosch's Biogenesis clinic, but he issued a statement through the Brewers' PR department today explaining that he is not legally able to speak on the topic while MLB's investigation still ongoing (Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporting). Braun says he will speak when he is legally allowed to do so. Here's more on the NL Central...
- Haudricourt tweets that the question surrounding Yovani Gallardo should no longer be whether or not he's traded, but rather whether or not the Brewers can salvage a pitcher who is losing his stuff. Gallardo allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings against the Padres today.
- Alfonso Soriano will be the last Cubs player to cause any drama regarding no-trade protection for a long time, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. President Theo Epstein doesn't believe in putting no-protection in contracts, so Soriano will be the last to receive that luxury (aside from players who end up with 10-and-5 rights, of course). The Cubs have dealt with no-trade hurdles when trying to move Kerry Wood, Derrek Lee, Carlos Marmol, Aramis Ramirez and Soriano himself in recent years.
- The Cardinals appear unlikely to make a significant trade, according to Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. General manager John Mozeliak won't part with top prospects Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras or Kolten Wong unless a "major" upgrade at shortstop or a high-end starting pitcher becomes available.