Alfonso Soriano

Report: Yankees to reunite with Alfonso Soriano

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The New York Post reports that the Yankees are close to bringing Alfonso Soriano back to the Bronx, with the Cubs getting a mid-level prospect in return.

Cash would facilitate the deal. Soriano is owed about $7 million for the rest of this year and then $18 million in the final year of his eight-year, $136 millon contract next year. The Yankees will again take advantage of the luxury-tax loophole that allowed them to add Vernon Wells from the Angels and still aid their chances of coming in under the tax threshold next year.

Soriano can’t help but improve the Yankees; their right-handed batters have hit a pathetic .221/.284/.309 with 24 homers in 1,438 at-bats this season. Soriano has 17 homers to go along with a .256/.286/.471 line in 359 at-bats. The plan could be for Soriano to play left field now and then take over as the primary DH once Curtis Granderson comes off the disabled list. Travis Hafner, who is hitting .183 in 197 at-bats since April 28, could be released when that happens.

At 37, Soriano isn’t nearly the same player he was in his first go with the Yankees. In 2002, his second full season, he hit .300 with 39 homers and 41 steals, leading the AL with 128 runs scored. In 2003, he hit .290 with 38 homers and 35 steals. That winter, the Yankees traded him to the Rangers in the Alex Rodriguez deal. Soriano went to the All-Star Game five more times afterwards, but that streak concluded in 2008 and he hasn’t been back since. Now in his 15th season, Soriano is a lifetime .273/.321/.504 hitter with 389 homers and 1,086 RBI.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.