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.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.