Yesterday I talked about Starlin Castro and how he will continue to grow and get better as a player. Starlin's biggest pal and influence on the Cubs is Alfonso Soriano who was once one of the top power hitters in the game. The past few seasons Soriano has dropped in overall play on both offense and of course defense. While he has never been anywhere near above average on defense, he has always punched for power.
Soriano was talking last week about how he wants to be a leader for the young guys in the ball club. I'm hoping that under the tough yet brilliant coach, Dale Sveum, that he will pickup his game once again. While he may never be the old Soriano we saw with his earlier teams, he is still able to produce better than what he shows on the field. While being interviewed last week, he even used the excuse that he is old to cut him some slack on his defensive efforts.
To me there is a difference from being old and not trying at all. Instead of hustling to plays, he tends to stand and watch to see where the ball will stop before making a move or he will lightly jog over to the ball before it comes to a stop. While he may be 36, a player who was once a solid runner should still be able to run and go after balls quickly. At least make it look like you are trying for the fans' sake.
Last year he had 7 errors in the outfield and had the lowest fielding percentage (.965) of a left fielder. We should never again expect even an average performance on defense by him. What good is there left to use him for? While he has a bad contract, the Cubs will still be able to use him to swing for power. Soriano always has those 1-2 moments each season where he will go on a streak of multiple homers in the matter of a couple weeks.
If his overall performance once again starts lagging, we may see the Cubs bring up a prospect (possibly Jackson in July) and just use Soriano as a pinch hitter. In the end I do see this being Alfonso's last season in a Cubs uniform. I believe they will keep him on this year to try and get something out of him but if they don't reach a trade we may see the Cubs release him to make way for younger talent to keep the ball club fresh.