While at the game yesterday watching future Cubs OF'er Jorge Soler, a few of us started talking a little about current outfielder Alfonso Soriano.
Specifically, the topic was this: Should the Cubs trade Alfonso Soriano?
If a team is going to pick up some of the salary and give some value back in terms of prospects, then it's a no-brainer. You have to make that trade. Taking it a step further, would you do the trade if you were getting a young, out-of-options player who has not lived up to expectations yet? The Cubs tried this route with Carlos Zambrano last year and received Chris Volstad in return. If the Cubs were to get this type of offer, my answer is still yes.
But let's assume that that's not the case.
If the Cubs have to pick up 90% of the salary and get a C level prospect in return, would you still do it? Here's a look at a few arguments for and against trading Soriano in this scenario...
Reasons to keep Alfonso Soriano
- He's productive, at least as far as traditional stats go. He's hit 25 HRs and driven in 85 runs. Even looking at more modern metrics, there is no question that Soriano does provide power. His ISO of .228 ranks 7th among left-fielders with 100 games or more, ahead of such players as Matt Holiday and Carlos Gonzalez.
- He's a good influence in the clubhouse. Soriano works hard. When he didn't produce as expected, the knee-jerk reaction from the media was to say that he took the money and got lazy. That has never been true and only this year has the idea of Soriano as a positive influence (in terms of both work ethic and overall attitude) become the mainstream opinion. Soriano's biggest influence has been on young, Latin American players such as Starlin Castro. Soriano has been there. He knows what these kids went through and what they are going to experience as far as expectations on and off the field. On a team that lacks veteran leaders, Soriano has stepped up.
- There's nobody banging on the door to play LF right now. Say you are able to cast off Soriano. Who plays LF, an offensively demanding position, especially in terms of power? There really is nobody unless the Cubs acquire someone in a trade or free agency. The FA options are pretty slim right now.
Reasons to trade Soriano
- Despite his resurgence, Soriano is a player in decline. He doesn't really provide much offense outside of power and much of his overall value is tied to questionable defensive rankings. Soriano is valued as a 3.4 WAR player, due in large part to the elite defensive rating he seems to get almost on a yearly basis from UZR/150. There's little question that Soriano has flashed a better glove this season, but his UZR/150 of 20.1 overstates his overall value. As far as offense goes, his wOBA of .339 is a little above average but ranks him near the bottom when it comes to players with 100 games or more in LF. Only Desmond Jennings, Delmon Young, and Dayan Viciedo have a lower wOBA than Soriano. Offensively, despite some good power, he is average at best overall as a corner outfielder.
- His ability to play everyday in LF is going to loom as a bigger and bigger question over the next couple of years. Soriano's knees are failing him and there were some days, especially in the cold early in the season, when he was in obvious pain. It was particularly evident when he needed to slow down or change directions. How much longer can he last out there? Can he endure another Chicago April? The ideal environment for Soriano right now is to be a DH/part-time LF in a warmer city. The feeling is that if the Cubs can find him that kind of situation, especially if the team is a contender, that Soriano may acquiesce and waive his no-trade clause.
- Soriano is not part of the Cubs long term future and the team may simply need to break from it's past. Soriano remains the largest reminder of a failed plan to build through free agency as well as being the poster child for a comfortable culture that has pervaded the clubhouse. There were too many players who liked playing at Wrigley for reasons had nothing to do with winning -- or baseball at all, for that matter. While some of those reasons are noble, such as the opportunity to spend more time with family, that is not going to help the Cubs win baseball games. That needs to be the priority. The Cubs have already started to address this culture change, but Soriano is still the face of an old culture that represented spending, outdated methods of calculating value, and an all too high tolerance for losing.
There is an argument to be made either way and I expect we'll see more good reasons from both sides in the comments section, but let's also get a feel for the general consensus with a new poll...