Some speculative thoughts on Soriano and creating roster space...
The Cubs still need to make room on their roster for 2 more players (RHP Carlos Villanueva and OF Scott Hairston). They have too many outfielders on their 40 man roster than they know what to do with right now. Something has gotta give. There are some candidates to be removed from the roster, notably OF Tony Campana and perhaps a younger bullpen arm like Lendy Castillo or recent rule 5 pick Hector Rondon. But I find removing another pitcher, especially young live-armed guys with upside unlikely. Those are exactly the kind of pitchers the Cubs are trying to get, not lose. The Cubs seem pretty confident with LHPs Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin, enough to where they let Jeff Beliveau go, who was considered the best prospect of the three to open last season. I don't think they're eager to rid themelves of young, LHP, cost-controlled pitching. Another mentioned candidate, Steve Clevenger, isn't likely to pass through as a 26 year old, cost-controlled LH hitting backup. It's a nice commodity that probably won't sneak through waivers. In short, the Cubs may be beyond the point where they can waive a guy and expect to get him back.
Which makes a trade an alternative. The Cubs have certainly been taking their time making space for Carlos Villanueva, indicating they aren't comfortable letting any current 40 man roster players go right now.
As for whom, the Cubs may try to deal, creating space in the OF may make some sense and the Indians have shown off and on interest in Soriano since last season, including just over a month ago.
"...even if the Indians do sign Swisher (they did), that would not rule out a deal for Soriano, depending on how much of his contract the Cubs are willing to pay.
Soriano is owed $36 million over the next two years. Chicago would love to unload his salary, and they appear willing to eat the majority of it just to move him as they tear things down before they look to build them back up again.
His salary is still clearly high, especially considering his age and the fact that he is as close to a defensive liability in left field as they come. But if Cleveland acquires him, he could play a lot of games at designated hitter. Travis Hafner is not expected back, so the Indians are looking to fill that position. With some payroll flexibility following the trade of Choo as well as the fact that Hafner and Grady Sizemore have come off the books, expect the Indians to continue to make some noise.
There are some whispers that talks may be rekindling a bit. The first question would be whether Soriano would be willing to go to the Indians but there is an advantage in that the Indians plan to go all out for the next two years as their window closes. Not being on the west coast helps too.
What would the Cubs get in return?
My own speculation is that one of the players coming back could be Mike Aviles, whom Theo Epstein is familiar with from his days in Boston. He's capable of playing all 3 IF positions, including 3B, and could serve as the short-side platoon to LHs Ian Stewart or Luis Valbuena.
Now the first thing that will catch people's eye is Aviles low OBP of .282 last season. A closer look shows that he has hit .295/.339/.458 vs. LHP for his career and .286/.325/.429 last season. He also showed some pop last season with 13 HRs. He's also a good defender at SS and will likely adapt well to 3B with more playing time.
Making it even a bit more intriguing is that Aviles has yet to hear from the Indians on his contract status.
Aviles was acquired perhaps in case the Indians would trade Asdrubal Cabrera but that never came to pass and now seems a man without a position behind Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, and Lonnie Chisenhall, Chisenhall, in particular, is a player in which the Cubs have shown interest in as a possible long term candidate at 3B, so we can't rule his name coming up in any potential trade talk. Another guy that interests me because he's not a great fit in LF for Cleveland (because of his bat) is Michael Brantley. Maybe the Cubs would be interested in getting him to play CF here. His defense would be better than the current crop and his bat profiles better there. He has solid OBP skills with some gap power. The downside is that acquiring someone like Brantley would require the Cubs to compensate the Indians with another ballplayer, so it would complicate matters even further.
If Aviles is indeed on the radar, he would fill a hole as a needed role player (platoon 3B, backup SS), but it would take more than Aviles for the Indians to land Soriano. Perhaps one of the other players mentioned above and it's also known the Cubs are always looking for young. live armed, near MLB ready pitching.
One name that intrigues me in that regard is RHP Danny Salazar. He's a Tommy John survivor who has come back throwing heat, reaching as high as 100 mph as a starter. He has a promising, but inconsistent breaking ball and the best changeup in the Indians organization according to BA, who also rates them as their 6th best prospect. Salazar has shown surprisingly solid control for a hard-throwing pitcher, walking a respectable 2.76 batters per 9 IP last year. He seems to fit the Cubs profile in a number of ways.
Salazar made it to AA, making 6 starts and going 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA. The biggest question, of course, is his health and his slight build (6'0", 190lbs). There's a chance he ends up in the bullpen because of durability concerns.
As you know, it's my custom to mention names of interest rather than creating specific packages, so the problem with that sort of trade so far is that it does nothing to clear roster space. In fact, both players would have to be put on the 40 man roster. So it would seem more players involved, including a couple of 40 man roster players to the Indians and a non-rostered minor league player or two coming back to the Cubs, to make it work.
Just a thought, speculate away...