Trading Alfonso Soriano should prove to be a complex issue for Cubs front office

Trading Alfonso Soriano should prove to be a complex issue for Cubs front office
Soriano and the Cubs have much to think about this offseason

There was a lot to cover yesterday as Theo Epstein addressed the media and there was one interesting nugget that I saved for today.  The Cubs are faced with a decision to make on Alfonso Soriano and while this decision seems easy on the surface for a rebuilding team, there is much involved that will complicate the issue.  Epstein summed it up as follows,

"I think if teams pursue him in a trade we will consider it and see if it makes our future better and makes us a better organization going forward. But he's got value to us because he helps us win games, he provides protection in the lineup, and he's a great example for our younger players to follow in the clubhouse ... If we trade him we're losing something, and we would have to get something in return to justify that. If that opportunity comes along and a team is very serious about acquiring him we will go to him and it will be up to him because he has 10-and-5 rights at this point."

Soriano, for this part, isn't necessarily opposed to the idea.  Per Patrick Mooney of CSN, it's contingent on when the Cubs think they can contend,

“It depends how long,” Soriano said. “If they want to rebuild for next year, I’ll be here. But if they want to take longer than two years, then they have to think about moving me out to another team that can win quickly. I have two more years on the contract and maybe I retire after that. I just want to have one more shot to go to the World Series before I retire.”

I imagine Theo Epstein's response has to be calculated here.  You don't want to send a message that you can't or won't try to win by 2014.  It's certainly not out of the question that the Cubs can contend by then.  You can certainly tell him that the Cubs don't plan on adding big name free agents this offseason, as Theo has already implied, but you can't guarantee him that they won't pursue someone next offseason.

If I were the Epstein, I'd tell Soriano that while it's likely the Cubs will be a lot better by 2014, the organization as a whole probably won't be where it wants to be until 2015.  I'd say that while the team will try to win, the front office still won't be ready to shelve long term interests in favor of short term ones.  That to me seems like an honest response and Soriano will have to take his own calculated risk and decide whether it's best to take his chances here or go elsewhere.

The Cubs certainly have long term interests in dealing Soriano and even his manager Dale Sveum, who has much to lose if they trade Soriano, understands the big picture.  He knows that Soriano's value has improved after a good season, and he's also in tune with the front office's stance that you can't trade him just for the sake of trading him.  No one is interested in just giving Soriano away.  Someone needs to make it worth their while.

“(Soriano's trade value) is as high as it can be,” Sveum said. “But those kind of things are all what you’re getting back. The replacement value of that is very difficult to find.”

So even though there is some mutual agreement that a trade would be good for both parties involved, there are still big obstacles left, the first of which is getting some value in return.  I'd imagine that there are a lot of teams that could use Soriano in their lineup, the bigger question is whether any of those teams are willing to give the Cubs something they could actually use.

Another obstacle is finding the right fit.  We know that Soriano wants to be traded to a contender, so that eliminates about half of the teams in baseball -- and even less than that when you consider the teams that have mutual interest.  We also know he prefers to play in warm weather, which would shorten that list even further.

Further complicating the issue is that Soriano really likes the Cubs coaching staff, particularly Dave McKay,who transformed him into a competent outfielder.  He prefers not to be a DH, calling it "boring".  In a more general sense, Mooney also said that Soriano likes the way the new coaching staff all treated him with respect.  He likes being here.  If he's going to be traded, not only does it have to benefit the Cubs, but it also has to benefit Soriano as well.  Like it or not, he has earned that right and the Cubs will respect that.

There will be communication in the offseason between Soriano and the Cubs decision-makers about where the Cubs are in their rebuilding.  They'll also need to discuss which teams fit Soriano's needs best.  It would help the Cubs to know which of those needs are a priority, whether it's best chance to win the World Series, the weather, or how the team plans to use him in the field.  It's going to be hard to find a team that meets all his preferences to a tee, so some give and take would be necessary for the Cubs to be able to create the market necessary to help them get value in return.

Given all that, it's not going to be easy to deal Soriano this offseason, and we haven't even talked about the money issue, which is obviously another obstacle.

In the end, as always, it's going to boil down to value.  The Cubs cannot afford to pass up opportunities to improve the organization as a whole.  Giving Soriano away doesn't help them accomplish that goal, but at the same time, if a team is willing to give the Cubs acceptable long term value in return, it's a move the Cubs will have to make.

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    The ultimate answer of course depends on what we can get for him, but I would be inclined at this point to keep him.

    The main reason is that he isn't blocking anyone in LF. Someone has to play the position in the meantime, and he's a reasonable power threat.

    If Jorge Soler was tearing up Iowa this August, I would definitely be in favor of moving him. But it will be 2014 at the earliest before any OF is clamoring for playing time, and DeJesus will be off contract by then.

    He's got a good attitude and isn't blocking anyone. He isn't hurting us staying, and even if we picked-up a big chunk of his salary, I think the return will be limited. If I am an opposing GM, I am wary of a player who is 37 and has had leg problems. There is alot of risk of a decline there.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    ...and the other reason to trade him would be to free payroll $$$. But that doesn't figure to a problem for us in the near term. Our payroll at this point, assuming Garza, Shark, and Russell are offered arbitration, is around $69 mil, about a $40mil drop from this year. We don't figure to spend $40 mil right away in free agency. We don't need to save the money right now.

    Soriano is still not worth $18mil, but at least the commitment now is just 2 more years

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think a team that's close and lacks power would consider him strongly as a short term pickup as long as the Cubs pay the freight. It's potentially worth a decent minor leaguer. The Astros got Matt Dominguez for a similar player in Carlos Lee and he's their starting 3B. I don't think Dominguez is going to be a star, but he's a solid glove who could fit there long term. I don't think it's impossible to get someone useful, but no doubt it won't be easy either.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "if teams pursue him in a trade..."

    Regardless of whatever Theo's and Sori's wishes and priorities are, this becomes moot unless some other team is willing to pick up most of the freight.

  • In reply to jack:

    No team is willing to pay most of the freight, the Cubs have already shown that they're willing to pick up most of the tab.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    After last year I would've said the Cubs pay much of the freight for just about anything.

    But this year, he's a 30 HR, 100 RBI guy, wasn't Dave Kingman in LF, isn't blocking anyone and since the Cubs cleared the decks isn't even a salary albatross anymore.

    If I'm the Cubs I've still got no problem with paying the freight, but now a team's gonna have to give up something of value. That kind of production and all that cash ain't gonna come all that cheap anymore.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    Exactly. That sums it up pretty well.

  • Lets see now....Soriano wants....

    Contending team....
    Wants to play the Outfield, no DH role....
    Warm weather climate.....

    That leaves Dodgers, Rays and Marlins......an they do not want Alfonso.

    Looks like Alfonso is here to stay.....

    Mark Grace was fired by the Diamondbacks Sports Network.....look for Steve Stone or Bob Brenly to take the Diamondbacks tv job.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    That's what makes it potentially difficult. In order to trade him he's going to have to relax that criteria a bit. I think he'd be willing to do that if he means what he says about a chance to win a WS.

    I'm keeping my eye on the Brenly situation but probably won't address it in an article until it actually happens.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    If Brenly leaves, I hope we pick up Grace or Stoney. Don't know the specifics of the Grace DUI, but I get the idea with his drinking past, .08 to him isn't the same as it is to us mere mortals.

    What's funny is that after all these years I just started warming up to Brenly. Him and Kasper were company shill types replacing Chip and Steve. Kasper still is and about as personable as a cold fish during the bottom of the 7th interviews. Painful to watch.

  • The stalled progress of BJax this year makes keeping Soriano all the more likely.
    I predict that Brenly takes the AZ job(since Michael is not showing ML potential) and that Stone joins Len in the booth. Stoney would love to get away from Hawk

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    That's definitely a factor. Much harder to fill two holes than one so it's going to have to be an offer they can't refuse (am I too late for Godfather references?)

    As for Stone, I'm sure he'll take the first opportunity that comes to him. Hawk can't be an easy guy to work with.

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    That would be fine by me however I think Stone wants the AZ gig a bit more being he lives there and he is close with ownership.

  • The guy had a 2.4 BWARP this year, which puts him in the company of guys like Teixeira, Granderson, Ethier. If he wasn't carrying that $19M/season number nobody in their right mind would be talking about giving him away for essentially nothing. From everything that's been reported he was a great clubhouse guy this year and actually worked on his defensive game when he could have just laid back and collected a paycheck.

    I think so many of us in years past didn't like him for what he "respresented," which wasn't anything to do with him but a franchise willing to gamble big on quick fixes by overpaying FA's. I say we consider it a sunk cost so long as he's not blocking anyone and would have no problem with still being a Cubbie this time next year.

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    If they can't get anything worthwhile, it wouldn't bother me if he was still here either. If someone offers something that may factor in as a long term piece, then they'll trade him -- though it's really going to hurt next year's lineup.

  • I think sori has to come back if we can't find a perfect match as far as trades go. He is not blocking anyone right now so keep him, I feel one of the weaknesses of the last front office was that they gave up a lot of players for nothing. John I am not hearing a lot of info on the kid Austin Meadows, how good can he be ? Do you think that they would consider taking him 2nd overall and take pitching the rest of the way like last draft?

  • In reply to seankl:

    Some have compared his potential to Josh Hamilton, but I don't think he's as advanced right now as Hamilton was when he was drafted. High ceiling there but I think he has to show more polish if the Cubs are going to forgo a SP that could join their rotation in the next couple of years. In other words, he'd have to look pretty close to a can't miss guy for the Cubs to do it. I wouldn't say he's at that level right now.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Soriano is blocking someone - the one or two pitchers that the Cubs want in return for him. It's a lot easier to find a replacement MLB LF than a significant pitcher or two at the AA level.

  • well, if he is thinking of retiring, maybe the cubs should buy out the rest of his deal and let him go. Cubs were going to eat all but 6 million or so of his deal in a trade so offer him 35 now and he can find his perfect spot with a warm weather ws contender, no dh and whatever else he is daydreaming about. Cubs should move on and get the roster flexibility so they can make the moves they want to develop the team without having a roster spot tied up for Sori.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Clearing roster space only works if you have someone ready to take that spot. Trading Soriano for value is one thing, giving him up for nothing doesn't help the team at all.

  • Just wanted to say how pleasant of a surprise it was to watch Soriano play this year. After watching him the last couple of years, I admit I was one of the people who was very sour on him. His seeming lack of discipline and focus really irked me.

    But this year, the old Sory was back. The excellent defense (I can't even believe I'm using this description for Alfonso Soriano!), his clutch hitting (ditto!), the power and positive influence in the club house (always been there). He has been one of the best stories to come out of this year, and deserves major kudos for sticking with it, and not tanking on a very bad team.

    You have to wonder about how much good coaching can help players, especially what it has done to Soriano's defense. But I think one major unsung factor for his rebound has just been the positive vibes he gets from the coaches now. He really feels valued there, and I believe he did not get that feeling from the staff the last couple of years. For some players, that can go a long way to helping bring out their best effort.

    Smiling Soriano has put a big smile on my face this year. Whatever future paths he takes, I would not be disappointed if he stayed with the Cubs.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Well said. Definitely one of the bright spots this year.

  • John, two questions:

    1) I know this is a difficult question to answer, as there are a ton of variables involed. But let's say that the Cubs are willing to pay 3/4 of Soriano's salary (I pegged that number because I see it as reasonable, but if you feel like a different number is better, feel free to change it). What type of value would you ask for in return to the point where you'd make a deal? What type of return makes trading Soriano worthwhile, in other words?

    2) Does timing matter here? I would imagine that in the Cubs' world, it would be ideal to trade him earlier rather than later so they can look for replacements in LF before everyone who's any good already gets picked up.

  • In reply to mosconml:

    I would try to answer that as an opposing GM. Timing to me would matter, I wouldn't touch a 3-6M Soriano until the trade deadline ...then if he accepted and wanted to come a 3-6M Soriano would be worth a top 50 prospect a starter about a year away a Zach Lee type, I would hope anyways

    I think if you are the Cubs you try your best to move him now in the offseason because his value is at what could be at his highest point. I don't know what they would look for at this moment cause regardless of what you think of Sori, and I felt just like HefCA this year ...i was out on him, but he has won me back over; it is like he actually wants to be here for a change. ...I don't think teams are realistically going to give you a 60-70 type prospect when they don't know how their season is going to go or how it is going to play out

    so we wait

  • In reply to mosconml:

    1) That would make Soriano a 4.5M/yr player. Per Fangraphs, based on his WAR, he was worth 19.2M. The Cubs could theoretically say they'd like a player worth about 13-15M to cover that surplus value they're getting, so we're talking about a 3+ WAR player, which is a solid regular.

    Obviousy, that's not going to happen. There is Soriano's age, there's his bad knees, and then there's the possibility that he may not play the field, where a lot of his value has come from this year.

    I think the appropriate return, considering a contending team is less likely to give up current value, is a young player who performed below average last year but has the ability to surpass that and be a solid regular. Chris Volstad and Ian Stewart were examples last year that didn't work. And I believe the Cubs were looking at Chris Tillman last year, who is similar in terms of potential to Volstad, except that he actually started to fulfill his.

    To me, you'd have to get a player like that, a young guy you think can be a good regular with an adjustment or two. I'll let you all come up with some names.

    2) I think the Cubs would much rather trade him in the offseason. Too many things can happen between now and the deadline and most of them won't help his value.

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    I keep thinking Sori back to the Bronx makes all the sense in the world -- especially since they are probably going to want to make one last run with this roster in the next couple seasons. Sori would give them a big, expensive, bat they wouldn't have to pay for, freeing up cash to re-sign Cano. But you have to think that possibility has been discussed and that it hasn't happened yet suggests it won't happen.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    We know Sori doesn't mind the bright lights in NY too. He has no problems playing in that kind of fishbowl. We've also seen the Yankees take some chances on some older vets, most recently Eric Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki. It's not a bad fit by any means.

    The tough part might be squeezing value out of Cashman.

  • What's nice about trading him before the season starts is that the pool of contenders seems much bigger. Lots of teams aren't exposed as non-contenders till the season starts, so he might be willing to accept a trade to them whereas he wouldn't at the trade deadline.

    And of course getting value back doesn't just mean getting players back, it could mean how big a chunk of Soriano's contract another team would be willing to pay. Be curious to know where that number currently stands after his good season. A season that only garnered him a 1.8 WAR by the way. Not that that makes me think less of Soriano's season, just less of how WAR's calculated.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Excellent point. Every team is more optimistic in the offseason. Pool of contenders will shrink by the trade deadline.

  • Freaking Cardinals!

  • a few things on this subject:
    1. his value really gets no higher than right now so soriano, if we want to trade him, should be traded this offseason.

    2. i think the rays are his best fit. contender, check. warm weather, check. will let him play the outfield, questionable, but im sure theyll let him play once or twice a week and dh the rest of the time. (2.5 out of 3 isnt bad cuz im sure 3 out of 3 doesnt exist in this case) the only problem with this is that the rays are probably gonna want us to pay all but 3 mil a year, but on the bright side i think this could net us wade davis, who will start to get expensive for them soon, but his salary will be fine for chicago.

    3. this situation will need to be handled delicately, soriano was one of the only bright spot's in many fans eyes this season so if we trade him the cubs should try and make it look like thats what he wants, and not like theyre trying to ship him out.

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    John do u have anything on instructs? Do they play games there or how does that work out? Is just like a training camp?

  • The perfect fit for Soriano in my opinion was and still is the Rays. If they didn't pursue him at the deadline they were absolute morons and it cost them a playoff bid. I have no idea if Soriano would have accepted a trade there, I know they are in the AL and have a DH and all. But in my opinion they were 1 Soriano away from being the favorite to win the World Series. Other than them and the Giants (which he already blocked) I really don't see a good place for him.

  • In reply to JR Cubbies:

    Good points. Soriano says he wants to play for a contender but doesn't want to play for a West Coast team and thinks DHing is boring. That limits his options and the Cubs'.

  • this is definitely a side note, but evan meek just filed for minor league free agency, he is one season removed from being one of the best settup men in the game, if the cubs were contenders i probably wouldnt even think about it but this looks like a perfect buy low opportunity. hes 29 and if we can help him turn things around we could definitely flip him at the deadline to a contender.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    DeWitt, Hinshaw and Wells filed as well.

  • Another aside - I'd like to see the Cubs offer their 3rd base coaching spot to Omar Vizquel. I know that he's work wonders doubling as the infield coach.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    Who better to mentor Castro than the premiere defensive shortstop of the last 25 years?

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    exactly.

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    I'd like to see Soriano straight up for Brian Matusz ala Volstad-Zambrano, Bailey-Reddick type trade. The guy has very good stuff but just hasn't got it figured out yet. I'd make that trade.

    I wish we could have gotten Chris Tillman when his stick was still low.

  • Francona to manage Tribe.

  • No official word yet....the "i"s and "t" need to be dotted and crossed....and Terry needs to say "yes".

    Trib's Phil Rogers said Santana & Marcum is on Cubs radar.....so are the Yankees, Dodgers, Braves, Angels, Tigers, Rangers...and none of those teams will be losing 100 games next year.

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    Hey John/Tom, should we expect an article soon in light of Theo's interview on Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson? He really went in deep on things like why they we're called up, played the way they were, and the teams expectations of them and the call up.

    The interview was very informative and put some light on things we all had questions about like Vitters' playing time and maybe help some people out who have already labled them as busts by going off statistics. I'd like to know how you guys feel about them at well...

    Just a thought.

  • The Cubs will try to trade Soriano in the off season, that's for certain. After the season he had , the Cubs will not settle for a bucket of baseballs, they will and deserve some quality back for him. The problem is the fact that Soriano is a AL player now and a DH, something Soriano as of now is not willing to accept and until he does , it will be very hard to move him. My prediction for the Arizona color analyst is that Stone will leave for Arizona and Tom Paciorek comes back as the regular color guy for the White Sox. While Brenly lives in Arizona and is still popular there, he supposedly loves working here and has no desire to leave. Steve Stone , on the other hand is not close to Hawk and also lives in Arizona. Tom Paciorek has patched things up with Reinsdorf and he is still good pals with Hawk Harrelson.

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    In reply to Steve Flores:

    I'll miss Brenly. Him and Kasper do a good job together. Steve Stone just reminds me of the bad times and i'd rather not have him back.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I agree, but Stone was a great compliment to Harry. Chip did not like the Cubs and Stone eventually felt the same, but if Brenly moves on I could be forgiving.

  • They're playing some ugly baseball in Detroit.

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