With Alfonso Soriano released by the New York Yankees Tuesday, there are some who think he would be a good fit for the Toronto Blue Jays—mostly people who haven’t looked at his .221/.244/.367 line and 71 strikeouts against six walks in 238 plate appearances for the Yankees this season, which was what got him released in the first place.
But even aside from the fact that the 38-year-old Soriano is well past ripe and struggled to hit for power this season at Yankee Stadium, which has a 314-foot short porch in right field and stretches just 318-feet down the left field line, there are reasons beyond mere baseball ability that the Blue Jays wouldn’t take a flier on Soriano.
Admittedly, Toronto’s current roster scenario is grim, with Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Adam Lind all on the disabled list. Injuries have forced the club to use Jose Bautista, who’s still nursing a hamstring issue of his own, at first base. Meanwhile, both of the players that the club skimmed off the top of the waiver wire in order to fill in at Bautista’s normal station in right field, Nolan Reimold and Cole Gillespie, have also hit the DL.
So, sure, you could scoop up Soriano for the league minimum and plunk him in right field and see what happens. Video games are fun. But here in reality, the Blue Jays are much more likely to keep the status quo, using the recently-recalled Dan Johnson at first base while Bautista plays right field and maybe even sees some time at designated hitter in order to keep his hamstring off the harsh Rogers Centre turf.
Meanwhile, Anthony Gose and Darin Mastroianni can platoon as backups behind Bautista in right field. For as much flak as Gose catches from Blue Jays fans, his .619 OPS this season is higher than Soriano’s .611 (marginally, but still) and he’s drawn a walk 10 more times in 106 fewer plate appearances than the former Yankee.
Gose’s defence and speed are also light-years ahead of Soriano, who hasn’t been any good in those areas since his early 30s. Mastroianni’s been miserable at the plate so far since rejoining the Blue Jays in June, but it’s hard to judge a guy on just 30 plate appearances. The 28-year-old can also play all three of the outfield positions and has even played some second base in the minors, which gives him versatility that Soriano simply cannot offer.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has always liked to have his designated hitter spot stay flexible so he can use it to manipulate his roster according to the handedness of the opposition’s starting pitcher and utilize it to get certain players off their feet. Expect that to continue, with Erik Kratz, Dioner Navarro, Johnson and even Bautista taking turns there, which leaves another spot where Soriano can’t fit.
You’ll likely see the Blue Jays ride the Gose/Mastroianni platoon for now until Reimold, who is not expected to miss extended time with his left calf strain, returns. That will likely push Mastroianni to the waiver wire, or possibly send Gose back to Buffalo. Encarnacion and Lind are both aiming to return in August, which would leave even less room for Soriano on the roster. Which is to say nothing of a potential trade for a right-handed bat, which Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has been steadily pursuing since Canada Day, and would make the idea of rostering Soriano seem even more like the waste of a good man’s time that it is.
And even if you’d like to overlook all of that, it also stands to reason that Soriano would much rather join a team that plays on grass, or even just cash the $5 million the Yankees still owe him for this season and retire, rather than subject his already-wonky quadriceps and knees to the cruel and unusual punishment of playing on the Rogers Centre turf. This is a guy who played six-plus seasons of his career for the Chicago Cubs, including 2010-12 when the team went a combined 197-279. He’s been through enough.