April 14, 2010
It's a question the Cubs
don't like being asked, mostly because they can't provide an answer.
The Cubs have tolerated his poor defense in left field because Soriano is supposed to produce at the plate.
But now his offensive production has dropped to the defensive levels that saw him drop this key fly ball in Cincinnati on Sunday and misplay another two against Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Soriano's value to the team has plummeted so much that the Cubs are alrady yanking him late in games for a defensive replacement and manager Lou Piniella has decided to consider all five of his outfielders when configuring his daily lineup.
The left fielder was also booed by the fans at Wrigley Field when he was removed from the game during a double-switch in the seventh inning.
It has gotten so bad that it's possible the Cubs have resorted threatening Soriano about his playing time — or are at least might be trying to motivate him by leaking threats through the media.
From the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:
A Cubs source says Soriano has been put on notice that he must show something of value at the plate and in the field soon.
The source isn't named and Soriano says this is the first he's heard of it. Piniella has denied it flatly. And what does "or else" mean, exactly?
He's under contract at $18 million a season until 2014. He is Oscar Madison to the Cubs' Felix Unger. They're stuck with each other and driving each other crazy.
So what are the Cubs options, other than petitioning the league for a 26-man roster?
Even in his prime, Soriano always struck out too much, didn't walk enough and other than a strong arm has played poorly on defense — no matter his position. At age 34, his skills seem to be declining. He's often banged up. He admits to lapses in confidence.
But the Cubs
don't have many choices here because, among other reasons:
• He's already been moved off his "natural" infield positions.
• There's no place better to hide his glove than left — other than maybe first base and Derrek Lee(notes) will be playing there through at least the end of this season (and more if he signs a new contract).
• There's no DH in the National League.
• Considering he's owed nearly $90
million on his contract, there can't be much of a trade market for him.
The Cubs can't afford to eat the whole contract, either.
So unless he starts taking organ lessons or styles himself as the broadcasting heir to Harry Caray's legacy, the truth is that the Cubs and Alfonso Soriano are married until the contract expires. It's going to be five very long years watching from those left field bleachers.