At this point I think I've started overreacting to overreactions about Alfonso Soriano.
The initial overreaction goes something like this: "Alf is grossly overpaid! And he sucks so bad! He's worthless! Cut him right now!" Put another way, I think Cub fans often fixate on Alf's salary, and declare him to be completely worthless just because he's wildly overpaid.
When I read stuff like that, my reaction is, "Sure, he's overpaid, but that doesn't mean he's godawful." In fact, I think it was about 10 months ago today when I predicted Soriano would surprise the team with 20 homers, a .270-.290 batting average, and maybe 2 WAR in value — again, certainly overpaid, but not as bad as, say, Tyler Colvin in terms of contributing to victories.
I had based that prediction on Soriano's 2010 campaign. In that season, Soriano posted a .258/.322/.496 slash line — far from an on-base machine, but with enough power mixed in to continue to help the team (40 2B, 3 3B, 24 HR).
But now, based on his 2011 performance, I think I might be overreacting to the overreactions. Maybe he is worthless – or, more accurately, equal in value to a replacement player — after all.
Soriano actually hit more homers last year than in 2010 (26), but his extra-base hit total fell from 67 to 54. He ended the year with a .244/.289/.469 — just below league average, according to Fangraphs (99 wRC+).
That's not going to cut it going forward. Sori's legs are getting older every day, and his cannon arm is nice, but doesn't make up for his terrible routes to fly balls and an unreliable glove. To even be a 1-2 WAR player, Soriano needs to keep walking 8% of the time like he did from 2008 to 2010 (his walk rate dropped to 5.3% last year), and he needs to slug closer to .500 rather than .450.
As for his future role with the Cubs, I think Soriano will continue to get at-bats in April and May, although perhaps not in a full-time role. But if the power isn't there come summer, the prudent move might end up being to identify Soriano's contract as a total sunk cost, and eat it.
Filed under: Alfonso Soriano