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Hartnett: Soriano Is Declining, But He’s Immediate Upgrade For Power-Starved Yanks

Yankees Had No Choice But To Add Soriano's Pop And Leadership
Alfonso Soriano (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Alfonso Soriano (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

An emotional Alfonso Soriano bid farewell to his Chicago Cubs teammates before catching a red-eye flight to New York to join the Yankees. It was fitting that Soriano received the news at Chase Field, the setting of his famous Game 7 go-ahead home run in the 2001 World Series. That, of course, was before Luis Gonzalez broke the Yankees’ hearts.

At 37, Soriano isn’t a kid anymore. His 2013 on-base percentage of .287 is the lowest of any full season he’s participated in. Soriano’s on-base plus slugging of .754 is far below his .825 career average.

Still, Soriano is a significant upgrade over struggling left fielder Vernon Wells, and this is a low-risk deal for the power-starved Yankees. Through 93 games, Soriano has collected 17 home runs and 51 RBIs.

According to CBSSports,com/WFAN baseball insider Jon Heyman, the Yankees are only expected to pick up somewhere between $7 to $8 million of $25 million owed to Soriano through the 2014 season.

Wells’ power disappeared after May. The 34-year-old has failed to hit a home run in June or through 18 games in July.  As a whole, the Yankees have only recorded seven home runs as a team in the month of July — whereas Soriano has hit eight round-trippers this month.

Soriano will provide the power boost the Yankees desperately need. He’s also improved as a fielder with age. His misadventures in the outfield are a thing of the past and his range factor of 2.01 is fifth-best of all major league left fielders.

A quote from Gordon Wittenmyer’s column in the Chicago Sun-Times sticks out, as it points to an attribute that Soriano will bring to the Yankees’ clubhouse — leadership.

Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney hailed Soriano’s locker-room presence.

“He’s in the top two or three teammates I’ve ever had at any level,” Barney told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He definitely was the leader of this ballclub, no doubt about that.”

The Yankees need an everyday player to step up and be a leader when Derek Jeter is out of the lineup. Soriano can be that guy. He established himself as an inspirational player in Chicago, earning a reputation for playing through various injuries and smiling through the pain.

He’s very motivated to win, and the Yankees could use his “gamer” personality as much as they need his stick for their playoff push.

Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.

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