The Chicago Cubs officially announced on Thursday that the team has traded starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano and cash considerations to the Miami Marlins for starting pitcher Chris Volstad. Volstad is a mere afterthought in the Zambrano trade, as the trade advances the change of culture taking place at Wrigley Field. Zambrano symbolized the Cubs’ teams of the past decade; teams that for whatever reason never met expectations and whose performance off the field was more closely followed than their performance on the field.
The Zambrano trade, however, does not signal a true culture change at Wrigley Field. No longer with the organization are third baseman Aramis Ramirez and Zambrano, but there still is one final player that has to be moved in order rid of the roster of former general manager Jim Hendry’s mistakes. That player being left fielder Alfonso Soriano. While Soriano is well respected in the Cubs’ clubhouse and is considered by many to be one of the better teammates in all of baseball, this is a game of business and not a game of friends.
The Cubs have disguised Soriano as a left fielder for far too long. The fact of the matter is that Soriano is an aging veteran whose knees severely limit his ability to play defense while earning $18 million from now through the 2014 season. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have shown with the Zambrano trade that the team’s front office is willing to eat whatever money necessary to make a player disappear.
Now that the pair of executives have got rid of one mental headache in Zambrano, they are preparing to part ways with the player that has given the organization a financial headache rather than a mental headache. Multiple reports have surfaced over the past 24 hours that the Cubs have been talking to multiple American League teams about a potential Alfonso Soriano trade. Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles are two teams that could have interest in Soriano.
The Orioles have been mentioned on-and-off as potential Soriano suitor. There is a connection between Soriano and the Orioles. If you recall, the Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter managed Soriano when the two were together with Texas Rangers in 2004 and 2005. Not to mention that the Orioles do have need for a designated hitter.
I am all for the Cubs’ trading Soriano. But at some point, Epstein and Hoyer are going to have to do something about the major league roster. More specifically, try to find a way to bring in some offensive production. The only legitimate run producer in the Cubs’ lineup may be shortstop Starlin Castro. While Soriano should not be an everyday player, from an offensive perspective, he is one of the few players on the Cubs that has the potential to hit 20+ home runs this season. 2012 was going to be a rebuilding year no matter how one tries to look at it, but is it asking for too much for the Cubs’ team to be at least a little competitive.
Marlon Byrd, another name rumored to be on the trading block, will likely remain with the Cubs if Soriano is traded. But given Epstein’s preference to trade players that are one year away from free agency, it could very well be Byrd walking out the door and not Soriano. In any event, it is safe to assume that either Byrd or Soriano will be with another team come opening day.