The Alfonso Soriano that Chicago Cubs fans have observed this season is unlike any form of Soriano that fans have seen since Soriano signed his eight year, $136 million contract with the Cubs prior to the 2007 season. In fact, Soriano’s production this season was the same reason why the Cubs were originally interested in the outfielder. For the first time since the 2005 season, Soriano will finish the season with 100+ RBIs and it is safe to say that the left fielder will also hit over 30 home runs on the season. Soriano has even been mentioned in the same sentence as gold glove this season. Soriano’s 2012 season for the Cubs has been so productive that some have suggested he would be an MVP candidate had the Cubs been in contention this season.
It is safe to say that the 36 year old Soriano has been born again with the Cubs. After Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum suggested that Soriano use a lighter bat, the left fielder has been one of the more potent run producers in the National League. This is some what ironic that Soriano found the fountain of youth during Theo Epstein’s first season as the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations. After numerous attempts by the previous regime to trade Soriano, the expectation last off-season was that Soriano would be one of the first victims of the regime change. Epstein, for his part, has said all the right things. Epstein indicated last off-season that all the reports he had on Soriano were from afar, and that he wanted a chance to evaluate the left fielder first hand. This season was Epstein’s first opportunity to do so and what does Soriano do? The left fielder only decides to have his most productive season yet in a Cubs’ uniform. Giving the indication that Soriano was not a player that was jeopardizing the direction of the organization, rather, a player who has become somewhat of a mentor to the young roster while producing at a potent level.
But, Soriano’s fountain of youth will not last for the remainder of his playing career. The left fielder will turn 37 in January, and Epstein and the Cubs front office likely have labeled Soriano as a short term asset. What have the Cubs’ new regime done with short term assets? They have eventually traded the players they classified as short term assets–Carlos Zambrano, Marlon Byrd, Paul Maholm, Ryan Dempster, etc–for pieces that could become potential long-term assets for the organization. One of the practices that the new Cubs’ regime seldom takes part in is the notion of trading a player for the sole purpose of trading a player. That is essentially what the Cubs were trying to do up until this season. Given the size of Soriano’s contract and his lacking production, the Cubs were not going to get much in value for the left fielder.
With Soriano owed $36 million between 2013 and 2014, and the left fielder proving this season that he remains an offensive threat, his trade value is significantly higher now than it was at the beginning of the season. This is why it should come as no surprise to read the report from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports that states the Cubs will look to trade Soriano this off-season.
There has been interest in Soriano over the past two months. The Los Angeles Dodgers expressed interest in Soriano at one point before the July 31 trade deadline, and the San Francisco Giants were heavily involved in trade discussions for Soriano until the left fielder nixed the deal. That is an underlying factor in the Cubs’ efforts to move Soriano. Soriano informed the Cubs’ front office that he would not accept a trade to San Francisco, and his reasoning would seem to indicate that the veteran has no intention of leaving the Cubs. However, all reports suggested that Soriano was willing to accept a trade to the Dodgers.
Nonetheless, I do not anticipate the Cubs’ trading Soriano before the start of the 2013 season. Though, I do not think Soriano will finish the 2013 season in a Cubs’ uniform.