View From The Bleachers

November 13, 2012

The Soriano Conundrum

Filed under: Featured,General — Noah Eisner @ 2:00 pm

When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer joined the Cubs’ organization a year ago, many presumed that their first order of business would be getting rid of Alfonso Soriano. The rumors were that they would be willing to pick up nearly all of Soriano’s contract, $18 million per year through 2014, and weren’t expecting all that much in return. Soriano was viewed as the symbol for all that was wrong with the organization under Jim Hendry: he was overpaid, declining, had no plate discipline and played bad defense.

What a difference a year makes. Not only did Soriano post offensive numbers on par with his strong 2010 season, but based upon all reports he vastly improved his fielding in left field. Where Soriano could get by with bad routes and fundamentals in left in 2007 and 2008, when he still had his legs and essentially all of his physical talents in their prime, that was not true in 2009 to 2011. He appeared to have devoted himself to improving his fielding, and it paid off. According to FanGraphs, Soriano was worth 4 wins above replacements in 2012.

Furthermore, all reports have Soriano as a guy who has become a fast favorite of both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Despite the rumors of Soriano’s laziness, the media always reported he was a hard worker. That seems to clearly be the case.

So what should the Cubs do with Alfonso Soriano now? Of course, if the Cubs get an offer for Soriano that absolutely blows them away, they should take it. But the real question is where the break point is.

So let’s start with what we know: First, the Cubs would still be willing to pick up all of Alfonso Soriano’s contract for the right package of prospects and/or young major leaguers. Second, during this offseason, the Cubs are going to err on the side of the future over the present in any personnel issues.

The big question is if Soriano can repeat his 2012 performance. If Soriano stays healthy, I firmly believe he can. What was the big difference between Soriano’s strong 2010 and 2012 seasons and his weak 2011 season? For the most part, it was that Soriano batted 30 to 40 points higher on balls in play than in 2011.

And here’s my theory: if Soriano can repeat his 2012 season for the first half of 2013, his trade value will peak in July. Not only would it would show that he’s less likely, especially than people thought a year ago, to decline beyond being a useful major leaguer, but a Soriano with last year’s numbers could be the best power hitter available at the trade deadline next year.

There’s also the consideration that we do not know the timeline the Cubs’ brass is really looking to compete in. If the Cubs are looking to compete for the division in 2014, though, odds are pretty strong that Soriano would be their best option to start in left field, presuming that the 2014 version of Soriano would be better than at least 2 of Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur and Jorge Soler.

So here’s the real question: if I’m  Theo or Jed what do I need to be offered to trade Alfonso Soriano right now? As I said above, the Cubs would rather pay most of Soriano’s contract and get better prospects in return than the opposite. And I wouldn’t expect to get someone on par with the Cubs’ top three prospects (Baez, Soler, Almora). But I’d need to get the prospect I think is number 4 in the system to pull the trigger at this point.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:
Share

Noah Eisner is a Chicago attorney living in the western suburbs with his wife and son (and impending daughter). When he isn’t practicing law or entertaining a toddler, Noah follows Cubs baseball with a focus on the farm system and sabermetric analysis. His Cubs-related ramblings can be followed on Twitter @Noah_Eisner.

  • Gymjok

    It’s possible Soriano may be a favorite of Theo and Jed but
    I’ve always had the feeling that they and Dale know what button to push to motivate Sori.
    I think they stroke his ego(insert Doc and/or Seymour joke here) to get him to improve
    in order to increase the value of an “asset”.
    Good job by them to come up with a creative plan to try and improve the organization,
    and not just dump a perceived no value piece.  

  • Doc Raker

    I think the amount of money the Cubs are willing to pay on Soriano’s contract in a trade has greatly decreased. As detailed above Soriano has worked hard and made improvements which is the best example a highly paid veteran can bestow on a young team. Soriano is now a leader who makes teammates better ar at least instills a better work ethic and that has a lot of value. Unless the Cubs have a prosepct of Rizzo production being blocked or get a trade offer for the vast majority of his contract Soriano will remain a Cub, and that is fine with me.

  • Chuck

    I have said this before and I’ll say it again.  Unless Soriano is blocking a player who is demonstrably better than he is, or will likely turn into one, keep him.  There is no reason to trade him for a sack of potatoes just to play a worse player.  Doubly so if the Cubs have to pay his salary.
    It is not like Soriano can’t play baseball any more.You can make an argument that he was the Cubs best hitter last year.  God knows he is one of the only legit power bats the Cubs have on the MLB roster.
    That being said, if some team want to trade some legit prospects for him, go for it.  The Cubs will be bad in 2013 (and 2014) with or without Soriano.  Why not get something for him.  But it has to be something, not career minor-leaguer flotsam.

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    Sori can mash…especially during seasons in which he can use both legs.  Glad to see some of you have come around.  

  • BLPCB

    What if you could unload the contract? I would consider it because even though he isn’t blocking anyone and probably won’t, wouldn’t it be beneficial to play someone and get some talent developed? This is the problem with the Jim Hendry Cubs, they would lose with garbage players like Neifi instead of losing with prospects that they’re trying to develop.

  • Noah_I

    Why I said I’d need the clear number 4 in the system.  The Cubs’ Top 3 prospects are Top 50 in baseball types of studs.  I don’t think you’d get that.  But even once you get into the second 50 you reach much more of the high ceiling but flawed, although physical talent should at least make him a bench player or relief pitcher.  So Arodys Vizcaino, who has top of the rotation stuff but might not be able to hold up to more than a relief pitcher’s workload.  

  • Chuck

    Again, the Cubs would have to get one or more prospects with a legitimate chance of playing at the MLB level.  If not, what’s the point?

  • BLPCB

    Save the $$$$$$$$$

  • Chuck

    That end, in and of itself, holds zero interest for me.  They are not going to share that savings with me so why should I care?
    I care about improving the team.  Usually saving money equates to a worse team on the field.

  • Norm Bothwell

     That’s probably exactly what Theo and Jed are thinking.

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    We’ve found one of the elusive Maholms…

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/11/cubs-sign-scott-baker.html
    …two Maholms to go. 

  • Doc Raker

    It seems we have much agreement on Soriano which leaves little room for antagonizing anyone, pity.

  • Jedi

    I could’ve gone 1 full season with no ‘Baker’ in the organization.

  • Jedi

    There must be disagreement, it’s a conundrum.

  • Doc Raker

    Doesn’t seem like much of a conundrum, seems like a consensus, a real consensus, not like the fake global warming consensus among Al Gore publically financed ‘scientist’.

  • Doc Raker

    Like a post said on the trade rumor site, “as long as his name isn’t Jeff or Dusty I am OK with a Baker.”

  • BLPCB

    07 and 08 weren’t good enough for you?

  • Buddy

    Sounds like the Jays and Marlins may be putting together a blockbuster deal. 

  • BLPCB

    For?

    Is Ozzie involved? Because him going to Toronto might cause an international disaster. An American-Canadian-Cuban-Mexican-Venezuelan disaster

  • Jedi

    Yeah, Toronto seems to be doing for the Marlins what the Dodgers did for the Red Sox.  Unreal…Jeremiah was right about those dominos…the Cubs put a Baker back on the roster and other teams counter that move by exchanging rosters.  Maybe the Rangers or Rays would like to send their rosters to Wrigley…

  • BLPCB

    Wow. What a stupid trade. And way to go Marlins trading for someone who insulted gays (there happens to be a large gay community in South Florida) right after you had the incident with Ozzie saying he admired Fidel. Loria is a freaking con artist and ought to be forced out of MLB.

  • Gymjok

    We have a new baker in the fold.

  • Gymjok

    One of the biggest assets they have is money.
    I think they would gladly “trade” more money if it means a better return.

  • BLPCB

    No but they could use that money to finance renovations of Wrigley Field instead of asking the state to give them the money

  • Chuck

    Its amazing what a season of good production in the field can do for a guy.  Personally, I thought he might have been washed up before the season.  Now I think he has a couple more years of above-average production ahead.

  • FourFeathers

    The equation has shifted on Alfonso Soriano.   The sobering truth is the 2013 Cubs will desperately NEED the run production ability of Soriano.   Plus, lets keep in mind that he’s going to be 37 years old and is owed $38 million over the next 2 seasons.   His trade value isn’t going to be that good, even if TheoJed are willing to pay the vast bulk of his remaining salary.   So keep Soriano and milk his bat for everything it can give you.  

    I love the Scott Baker signing.   Smart, smart, smart.   Could be a solid win for both the Cubs and Baker.   TheoJed are making it pretty clear they won’t overpay or overextend on the limited pool of quality free agent pitchers.  Which I think is the absolute right strategy.   Let some other dopes overpay on the questionable at best Shawn Marcum.  And if some team is willing to give Anibal Sanchez $80 million plus, then count your blessings that his contract won’t become the nightmare of the Cubs.  

    Next on tap?   Maybe Scott Feldman.  

  • Doc Raker

    Marty Feldman too!

  • http://swantron.com/ jswanson

    Also Corey Feldman!

  • Seymour Butts

     Yikes! Lizzies come out tomorrow…must think of something worthy…running out of Feldmans…

Powered by WordPress