NEW YORK -- Less than a year after it began, the Alfonso Soriano experiment is over. The Yankees designated the 38-year-old outfielder for assignment today, meaning they have 10 days to waive him, trade him, release him or outright him to one of their minor league affiliates, an assignment Soriano would surely refuse. Simply put, his second Yankees career is over.
Justified? It would seem so. After a half-season last year in which he was a revelation -- in just 58 games, Soriano hit more home runs (17) than any Yankee but Robinson Cano and drove in 50 runs, more than all but Cano and two others -- Soriano played to his age this year, hitting .221 with six home runs, 23 RBIs and a career-low .611 OPS. His playing time was reduced to the point that he faced almost only left-handed pitching, but his splits were almost equally dismal except that he hit .247 against lefties and .204 against righties. Plus, his play in the outfield was subpar; his two misplays in the eighth inning of Saturday's 2-1 loss foretold what was to come today.
Now what? In a lot of ways, Soriano's demise was directly related to Carlos Beltran's elbow injury. It forced the Yankees to use a player they had intended to be their full-time righty DH as an outfielder, where he was no longer suited to play. Beltran is still hurt and cannot play the field, which means 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki becomes the every-day right fielder. This year, it has been Ichiro who has been the revelation, hitting .283 with a .342 OBP -- by contrast, Soriano's .244 was the team's worst -- but for a team that needs to get younger, this is another move in the wrong direction age-wise.
Worth it? On balance, you would have to say it was. The Chicago Cubs paid the bulk of Soriano's $18 million salary for each of the past two seasons. The Yankees picked up just $1.5 million of it last year and $5 million this year. They have paid a lot more for a lot worse. Plus, he was a good clubhouse guy, always cooperative with the media and popular among his teammates.
You can't go home again: Soriano's second Yankees tenure was nowhere near as good as his first, when he was part of two World Series teams, hit 77 HRs in two seasons and displayed some playoff heroics that will never be forgotten by Yankees fans of that era. That tenure ended with him being traded for Alex Rodriguez. Who knows how Yankees history might have been altered if that deal had never been made.