It was only a matter of time. On the ESPN ticker last night, I saw the following: the Yankees are close to acquiring Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano for a mid-level prospect. Although talk on the Soriano to the Yankees front has cooled with GM Jed Hoyer calling talks on a deal being close “very premature” on MLB Network Radio, the Cubs are again desperately pushing to move Soriano before the trade deadline. For nothing more than a mid-level prospect. And, oh by the way, the Cubs will be more than happy to cover most of the remaining salary due to Soriano over the next season and a half. This leaves me scratching my head: why are the Cubs desperate to drop Soriano?
Still Productive. Alfonso Soriano is leading qualifying Cubs batters in batting average (.256) and HR (17). He trails Anthony Rizzo in the team lead for RBI by 5, 56-51. Soriano isn’t putting up Josh Hamilton numbers (.223-14-41). So, is he coming off a bad season, and the Cubs just think his numbers this year are a fluke? No, he batted .262 last season with 32 HR and 108 RBI, a career high for Soriano in RBI. Throwing out an injury plagued 2009 (where he still had 55 RBI), Soriano’s RBI totals as a Cub are 70-75-79-88 and 108. If the Cubs trade Soriano away, how are they replacing his bat in the line-up?
Moving in the Right Direction. The Cubs this year have the bad luck of playing in the N.L. Central which may have the three best teams in the National League: the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds. Still, the Cubs come into tonight’s play 44-53, a couple good weeks away from .500. They are a half game behind the San Francisco Giants, last year’s World Series winner. Sure, the playoffs at this point are a stretch. But, if the Cubs finish around .500, that’s a giant leap from the 2012 squad that finished 61-101. Soriano is a contributor to the Cubs heading the right way, as his work ethic was recently praised by teammate David DeJesus and manager Dale Sveum in an article by Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal quoted DeJesus in his article as saying, “The dedication he has to being on top of his game, that’s why I love being a teammate of his.” That’s the kind of guys you want to keep in your locker room.
The Cubs are Going to Pay Soriano Anyway. That, to me, is the kicker in all these trade talks. The Cubs, who by the way aren’t a small market team, are still going to be on the hook for most of Soriano’s salary. Why not, if you’re going to be paying for him anyway, keep him in your line-up? I know the new Cub front office hasn’t looked favorably upon Soriano’s deal. But, at the time, the Cubs landed the premier free agent in the market by landing Alfonso Soriano. Several teams were lining up to get him then, just as several teams are lining up now. If I was the GM for my favorite team, the Mariners, and they were in contention for a playoff spot, I would glad send the Cubs a mid-level prospect for Soriano with them picking up most of the tab for Soriano. If he is a good influence and producing with his bat, the Cubs should just keep Soriano, and let him go as a free agent at the end of 2014, instead of trading him under his value and paying for him to play for another team. To me, it’s that simple.