When the Chicago Cubs decided to put Bryan LaHair in right field, and David DeJesus in center field to begin the week, the team was sending a message. A message that was coming directly from the front office and not manager Dale Sveum.
The message was that the team is ready for the next phase of their rebuilding process. Not only will first base prospect Anthony Rizzo be promoted to the Major League level by next Monday, but it is likely that Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Theo Epstein are working the phones in preparation for being one of the most active teams in baseball in regards to the July 31 trade deadline.
Though was some belief that starting pitcher Ryan Dempster would have been traded by now. However, Dempster’s trip to the disabled list nixed the chances of the veteran starting pitcher being traded to a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers this week.
With a potential Dempster trade on hold, the Cubs front office has likely turned their sights to trying to trade the players on the roster that are preventing the team from continuing their youth movement in their rebuilding.
The biggest roadblock on the Cubs’ roster is by far left fielder Alfonso Soriano. That is not to say that Soriano is not a bad teammate. In fact, Soriano is beloved within the Cubs clubhouse and is one of the vocal leaders of the team. The veteran left fielder has taken shortstop Starlin Castro under his wings and been a mentor for the young Castro. However, this is the side of Soriano that fans do not see. When ever Soriano’s name is brought in a discussion, the only thing fans see is the left fielder that signed the richest contract in the history of the Cubs’ organization. Do not blame Soriano for that contract. Soriano did what any professional worker would do. Whether it was former general manager Jim Hendry or someone above his head, the fact is that Soriano was offered an 8 year, $136 million contract from the Cubs. The Cubs did not give Soriano a blank check and tell the left fielder to write in his price.
Having said all of that, it does not change the fact that Soriano is one of players on the Cubs roster that needs to be traded prior to the July 31 trade deadline. At 36 years of age and playing on one good knee, Soriano is a player that does not fit the long-term future of the Cubs’ organization. The 2012 season is geared towards the Cubs’ new regime removing the final pieces from the previous regime. That process began in the off-season with departures of Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Tyler Colvin, and a complete restructuring of the Cubs’ front office and coaching staff. That process continued during the season with the Cubs trading center fielder Marlon Byrd in April and the recent firing of Rudy Jaramillo as the team’s hitting coach.
Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times writes that Soriano’s days with the Cubs appear to be numbered. Soriano’s days with the Cubs have been numbered since half-way through the 2010 season. However, that sentence may have never held as much truth as it does now. Soriano, who could be the Cubs’ lone-All Star representative this season, is hitting .266/.314/.481/.796 this season to go along with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs. Soriano is on pace to hit 31 home runs and drive in 101 runs.
The Cubs have not seen this type of power production from Soriano since 2007, which was the left fielder’s first season with the team. In fact the project 101 RBIs for Soriano this season would be the most of any that Soriano has had with the Cubs. There have teams that have been quietly looking at Soriano. The Baltimore Orioles are at the top of that list. The Orioles and Cubs went back and fourth on a potential Soriano trade in the off-season, and now, the Orioles have had advanced scouts watching Soriano over the course of the past month. The Cubs would still have absorb approximately $45 million of the remaining $48 million on Soriano’s contract over the next two and a half seasons. Though, the sooner Soriano is traded the sooner the Cubs rebuilding efforts can take another step forward.