by Matt Eurich
One of the most highly criticized Chicago Cubs in recent years has been outfielder, Alfonso Soriano. Despite a productive first two years of an eight year, $136 million deal in 2007, Soriano had struggled the last few seasons in Chicago.
Things did not seem very different in Chicago to begin the season when Soriano struggled out of the gate, batting just .237 with no homeruns and 11 RBI through the first 20 games. In May, Cubs manager Dale Sveum was able to persuade Soriano to use a lighter bat, dropping the weight from his standard 33 ½ ounces to 32 ounces. With the reduced weight, it allows Soriano to get his bat around faster and has greatly improved his stats since the change.
Coming in to this past Saturday, in the 53 games since Soriano’s change to the lighter bat, he had batted .296 with 56 hits, 17 homeruns and 37 RBI.
Is Soriano still the 30+ homerun hitter he once was? No. But his new approach at the plate with his lighter bat has made him a player that could be valuable for another team.
With the remainder of the $18 million owed to him this season, as well as the $36 million owed to him over the remaining two years, it may be impossible to move Soriano without the Cubs being willing to eat a majority of the money left.
If Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer feel that the best thing for the Cubs moving forward is to move Soriano at any cost, then team chairman, Tom Ricketts, will have to give the front office the green light.
Being able to move Soriano may ultimately result in an opportunity for center field prospect Brett Jackson to finally get his call-up to the major leagues. Jackson has struggled with his strikeouts this season, but if Soriano is moved, the platoon of Reed Johnson/Tony Campana can make the move to left field and it can open up an opportunity for Jackson to get much needed time and experience in center field.
If Ricketts is willing to absorb the majority of the contract, who could possibly be interested in Soriano?
Back in December, there were rumors surrounding a possible trade for Soriano by the Baltimore Orioles. Despite the trade talks never culminating into an actual trade, the Orioles may be willing to reopen trade talks for Soriano.
The Orioles currently sit with a record of 46-42 and would hold the second wild card spot if the playoffs were to start today. Despite acquiring slugger Jim Thome to fill the void at the DH spot on July 1st, Soriano could take over left field for the platoon of Steven Pearce and Chris Davis.
With a young team trying to find their way in to the playoffs, Soriano’s prior playoff experience could draw the Orioles to pull the trigger on a deal to acquire him.
Boston Red Sox
Currently sitting with a record of 45-44, the Red Sox are battling for position in the Wild Card race.
Since outfielder Carl Crawford’s injury during Spring Training, the Red Sox have been looking for a suitable replacement in left field. Daniel Nava has spent the most time in left (52 games) and is batting .265 with four home runs and 27 RBI. Nava has played solid defense but lacks the kind of power that is preferred in a corner outfielder.
Soriano would immediately add some pop to a lineup that is desperate for some power hitting and who also has prior experience in the AL East.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Only a half game behind the division leading Giants, the Dodgers have struggled to find consistency from its left fielder all season.
With stints on the disabled list for Matt Kemp this season, the Dodgers moved left fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to centerfield and signed veteran Bobby Abreu on May 1st. Abreu has struggled some in 40 games this season, hitting just .254 with 2 homeruns and 21 RBI but has continued to his ability to get on base, posting a .352 OBP.
The Dodgers could platoon Soriano and Abreu in left field, but with Matt Kemp returning to the lineup on this past Friday, the Dodgers may have more outfielders than they do spots in the lineup, but given both Kemp’s and right fielder Andre Either’s injury issues this season, the Dodgers may take a chance on an outfielder who can add more power than their current option in left field.
Tampa Bay Rays
With injuries to outfielders Matt Joyce and Hideki Matsui, the Rays, who are a half game back in the AL Wild Card race, could use more pop to a lineup that has struggled with injuries all season long.
Desmond Jennings has been serviceable as of late in left field, but the Rays lack power at the corner outfield positions with Jennings accounting for four homeruns and right fielder, Ben Zobrist, hitting just 11 so far this season.
With Matt Joyce expected to come off the disabled list soon, Soriano could split time in both left field and as a platoon DH with Luke Scott, who is currently hitting .200 with 11 homeruns and 42 RBI.
At 4 games behind the AL Central leading Chicago White Sox, the Indians still believe they have a shot at overcoming the White Sox and Detroit Tigers to win the division, or possibly compete for a wild card spot.
The Indians have struggled to find consistency at the left fielder position with Shelley Duncan (.233, 9 HR, 24 RBI), Aaron Cunningham (.189, 1 HR, 6 RBI), and Johnny Damon (.219, 4 HR, 17 RBI) all splitting time there.
Soriano would immediately become the team’s best option in left field and would be a good insurance plan for often hurt DH, Travis Hafner.
All of these possibilities may never come to light if the Cubs are not willing to absorb the majority of the remainder of Soriano’s contract. Few, if any, teams in the league have the ability to take on his contract at face value, so the Cubs will have to determine if Brett Jackson is ready to take make the move to the next level and if paying Soriano to play somewhere else outweighs his improved production on the field in recent months.