The winter meetings are fast approaching, and every general manager in baseball will be working furiously to use them as a means to improve his team. One potential item of interest comes from Chicago, where Jon Morosi of Fox Sports has heard that the rebuilding Cubs will be putting significant effort into unloading their slugging outfielder Alfonso Soriano.
Soriano, who will turn 37 in January, did put up respectable enough numbers a season ago after a very disappointing 2011, hitting .262/.322/.499 with 32 home runs. The seven-time all-star also contributed 4.0 WAR on the year, easily his highest total since 2008. Even with this bounce back effort, the Cubs may find dealing the aging slugger difficult on a number of levels.
Firstly, there’s the matter of what he’s still owed — $18 million for each of the next two seasons for a total of $36 million. As always, the amount of interest the organization hears back — and the caliber of talent they can expect to get in exchange — will hinge on whether or not a trade partner will need to pick up the entirety of Soriano’s still owed salary. Secondly, Soriano has a full no-trade clause in his contract (not to mention 10-and-5 rights since he’s played in the majors for 14 years, the last six of which have been with the Cubs) and isn’t going anywhere unless he wants to leave.
From Soriano’s viewpoint, he needs only to pick a city with a major league team — any city — and odds are it will be a better place to finish out the rest of his contract, which may be the last one he receives before retiring. If he wants one last chance at winning, waiving the no-trade clause is a no-brainer. From the club’s standpoint, even the 2012 comeback effort isn’t likely to fool very many other general managers, so it may be difficult to find a good deal for him.
At this stage in his career, Soriano is of no use on the bases, and while his defense is still quite solid in left field, most of what he offers to a team comes from the power still left in his bat. He has virtually zero on-base ability, and considering his .273 career batting average, he’s always a risk to post an OBP below the .300 mark, making it difficult to bat him in a run producing spot in the order. Soriano may still be useful for a team looking to add a little thump to the lower portion of their lineup, but very few teams need that badly enough to pay $36 million for it.
The Cubs, who must continue to focus on getting younger and better, are correct to see what kind of interest exists for Soriano, but with that said, dealing him may not be possible.