In a few short months, Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano has gone from overpaid slap hitter to slugging cleanup hitter. After going homer-less in April the resurgent Soriano now leads the Cubs with 12 long balls on the year.
As baseball's trade deadline approaches, the Cubs are expected to field offers for pitchers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, as well as first baseman Bryan LaHair. Soriano was at one point considered to be untradeable due to his sub-par defense, declining offense, and the $54 million remaining on his contract.
Given his recent hot streak Soriano may now be considered an attractive option for American League teams looking to bolster their offensive production. The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians could both use an upgrade at DH. Despite his recent hot streak, any deal involving Soriano would still likely involve the Cubs covering most of the remaining dollars on his contract.
Now the question becomes how much of the contract are the Cubs willing to absorb? In spring training, when Soriano was viewed simply as an aging player returning from recurring leg injuries, Chicago probably would have had to pay most of Soriano's contract in a salary dump move with little coming back in return. Now that Soriano appears healthy, and the power has returned to his bat, the Cubs may be able to swing a deal that involves less cash going with Soriano and a better return coming back to Chicago.
Chicago doesn't have a bevy of young outfielders knocking on the door. Trading Soriano would create another hole in left field and in the middle of Chicago's order. Soriano has never been a clubhouse problem, so there's no need to simply get him off the team as there was with Carlos Zambrano. If Soriano's resurgence is due to improved health, then perhaps the Cubs should think about keeping the veteran to serve as lineup protection for promising youngsters Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson. Even rebuilding ball clubs need cleanup hitters.
Do the Cubs really want to pay Soriano over $40 million for the next 2 1/2 seasons to hit a bunch of home runs for a team like the Indians?
While it could be argued that if the Cubs are going to foot the bill for Soriano anyway, they might as well keep him and benefit from his increased production. The left fielder's recent hot streak may increase the pool of interested teams and the Cubs' potential return. My guess is the Cubs view Soriano as a sunk cost and would still rather clear Soriano from the roster and the payroll, even if it means absorbing most of his remaining contract.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com
- Sports & Recreation
- Alfonso Soriano
- Chicago Cubs