There have been a number of changes since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the Cubs’ front office in October of 2011. Familiar faces like Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Andrew Cashner have all been traded as part of the rebuilding process. With the latest deal, which sent right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for a package including Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily, Darwin Barney is feeling a little lonely in the Cubs’ clubhouse these days:
Barney, now the longest-tenured player on the Cubs, isn’t far off. Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo, and James Russell are the only other remaining players from the 2011 team. We’re sure to see more changes soon.
Yangervis Solarte was one of the Yankees’ biggest bright spots early on this season, coming out of nowhere to make the team as a 26-year-old career minor leaguer, grabbing hold of the starting job at third base, and hitting .300 with six homers and an .834 OPS in 49 games through April and May.
Unfortunately he’s hit just .162 in 22 games since June 1, including his current 3-for-41 (.073) slump, and today the Yankees decided to demote Solarte back to Triple-A.
Solarte’s overall numbers are still pretty solid with a .266 batting average, .343 on-base percentage, and .736 OPS, which is actually the fourth-best mark on the Yankees behind Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, and Jacoby Ellsbury (and ahead of, among others, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, and Ichiro Suzuki).
He deserves another shot at some point, but in the meantime the Yankees have called up 27-year-old career minor leaguer Zelous Wheeler, a utility man hitting .299 with seven homers and an .834 OPS in 66 games at Triple-A.
Carlos Beltran has played 17 games for the Yankees since returning from the disabled list for bone spurs in his elbow that may require surgery eventually, but they’ve all been at designated hitter and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Brendan Kuty of the Newark Star Ledger reports that Beltran tweaked his elbow while doing some throwing at Yankee Stadium over the weekend and the 37-year-old has been shut down from throwing for the foreseeable future.
That’s not a huge problem, because the Yankees have standout defenders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in center field and left field, and they can use Ichiro Suzuki or Alfonso Soriano in right field. Of bigger concern is that Beltran has hit just .177 with a .585 OPS in 17 games since coming off the DL.
In the first season of a three-year, $45 million deal Beltran has hit .216 with seven homers and a .673 OPS in 50 games overall, which is a 150-point drop in OPS from his 2013 production with the Cardinals.
Alfonso Soriano began the season as the Yankees’ everyday designated hitter and Ichiro Suzuki began the season on the Yankees’ bench, but now they’re being platooned in right field … at a combined salary of $25 million.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has decided to play Soriano almost exclusively versus left-handed pitching because at age 38 he’s really struggled versus right-handers this season. On the flip side, Girardi has decided to give Suzuki the heavy portion of the platoon, playing him versus right-handers, because at age 40 he’s hitting .309 with a .371 on-base percentage.
It’s a solid platoon situation, if not for the fact that both players are big names making big money, but that isn’t as much of an issue for the Yankees as it might be for other teams and, in Soriano’s case, the Cubs still are on the hook for most of his salary anyway.