In one week, Alfonso Soriano went from a guy the Cubs have long been willing to trade, but who almost certainly wasn’t going to be dealt until August or the offseason, to a guy wearing Yankee pinstripes. It’s weird to say that a Soriano trade happened really fast, given the fact that fans have had him one foot out the door for three years, but it kind of did. I definitely did not expect Soriano to be dealt before July 31 at the very, very earliest. And, if I’m being completely honest, I expected to see Soriano on the roster for the duration of his agreement. When the market for his services was clearly very soft in the offseason (despite a great year in 2012), and when Soriano kept saying things about not really wanting to leave the Cubs … I just didn’t think it was going to happen. But, somehow, despite all of that, the Cubs managed to put Soriano in a good position while getting a good pitching prospect and $6.8 million in the process. Very hard to be anything but very happy about the trade.
- On the timing of the trade, Theo Epstein felt like it wasn’t going to get any better. “That’s one of the reasons I felt this was the right time to move on,” Epstein said of Soriano leaving on a high note with a great reputation in Chicago (per ESPN). “There may have been a time over the next 14 months when we might not have had every day at-bats for him …. That’s always a really difficult transition for an elite player, a superstar player, in the final innings of his career. It can often muddy the waters a little bit. With him moving on now he leaves at the right time with his head held high. We can all be proud of the career he had as a Cub.” Reading between those lines: a big part of this deal from the Cubs’ perspective really was about clearing the deck chairs. The Cubs apparently didn’t feel like Soriano was going to be a productive starter in 2014, which may have required sitting him down in favor of other players. That’s not only awkward, but it’s tough on a manager and on the front office when constructing a roster. Now the Cubs can go into the 2014 offseason with a clearer idea of what they have and what they don’t.
- On Soriano, the player, Epstein was extremely complimentary upon Soriano’s departure (per Cubs.com), which is when you can be really honest: “When I came here, for some reason, I was under the impression he would be a negative in the clubhouse and someone who was out for himself and someone who didn’t play the game hard all the time. I was quickly disavowed of that notion. We asked him to work on his defense, we asked him to run the bases hard, we asked him to run balls out, we asked him to be a good example for younger players, and we asked him to always play the game hard and try to win the fans back over and be a leader in the clubhouse. He said, ‘OK,’ and he went out and did it.” Epstein had many more good things to say about Soriano, and you can see them in that Cubs.com piece or the above ESPN piece.
- It sounds like Yankees GM Brian Cashman wasn’t all that interested in making this trade. A Cashman quote, by way of Joel Sherman: “I would say we are in a desperate time. Ownership wants to go for it. I didn’t want to give up a young arm [Corey Black]. But I understand the desperate need we have for offense. And Soriano will help us. The bottom line is this guy makes us better. Did ownership want him? Absolutely, yes. Does he make us better? Absolutely, yes. This is what Hal wants, and this is why we are doing it.”
- Dave Cameron at FanGraphs likes the deal for the Cubs, if for no other reason than they can take the near $7 million saved and probably convert it into a better asset next year anyway.
- On the young man the Cubs acquired in the deal, Corey Black, Epstein said he’s got a huge arm – he has touched 100 mph – that will probably work best out of the bullpen. Black has been starting for the Yankees, but the Cubs might eventually move him into the bullpen, if they believe that’s where he’ll progress best. Few seem to believe – largely because of his size (he’s small) and rough secondary offerings – he can stick as a starter. In that case, I dig the idea of moving him to the pen almost immediately, and honing his craft there. It doesn’t sound like that’s the plan immediately, though, as Black will probably continue starting for a little while.
- Black was a 2012 4th round pick out of Faulkner University, and the Yankees signed him for slightly under slot (he wasn’t one of those college guys who’s massively under slot – he got $215,000 and slot was $275,000). 2013 is his first full professional season, and he was pitching adequately in High-A (4.25 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 (that’s the question mark), which is always encouraging. He’s about to turn 22, so he’s not age inappropriate, either (for a college draftee in his first full professional season). Setting aside everything else, that has all the hallmarks of a legit prospect, albeit not one who you’d have in the Cubs’ top 20.
- Jason Parks offers a mixed review on Black: “He’s a short RHP with a high-effort delivery and a very good FB. I’ve seen him work 95-plus with ease, showing good late life on the ball. It’s a 7 pitch. He’s a reliever all the way. I’ve seen him drop a decent CH before, and I know he had both a CB and SL. He could be a seventh-inning type, but it’s a limited ceiling.” So, Black has a very good fastball (if he can harness it), and he probably needs to work on the secondaries. If the Cubs move him now into the pen, he really only needs to work on harnessing the fastball and then improve one of those secondaries, and he could be an effective reliever. That’s the upside of having raw velocity.
- Baseball America calls Black’s secondary pitches “solid,” and compliments the fastball. He was called “one of the best arms” in the Yankees’ draft in 2012, but his size and his wildness are the reasons he’ll likely end up in the pen.
- John Sickels also offered a write-up on Black, which I linked back when the deal was going down, but is worth a look if you didn’t check it out then.
- As River Avenue Blues noted back when Black was signed by the Yankees, he’s already had Tommy John surgery once in his career, which could have driven his draft stock down slightly.