Saturday, July 27, 2013

Remembering Alfonso Soriano

Well Cubs fans, it appears all of your dreams have come true, as the Cubs have finally traded long maligned outfielder Alfonso Soriano.  But let me ask you, was Soriano really that bad in a Cubs uniform?  You may all remember him for the constant debate on whether he should hit lead-off or that stupid hop in left field when a fly ball approached, but Soriano was actually extremely productive in his time on the North Side.  Let's take a look at Soriano through the years in Chicago.

In November 2006, Soriano signed a contract with the Cubs for 8 years and 136 million dollars.  Coming off a 40 home run, 40 steal season with the Nationals, Soriano was primed to get paid, but people thought a 6 year deal in the 100 million dollar range got it done.  

Trying to make the Cubs more attractive to a potential buyer, Tribune company buyer Sam Zell decided that the Cubs needed to have Soriano.  Under his direction, and the pressure of business side executives Crane Kenney and John McDonough, the Cubs overpaid for Soriano and got him to the North Side.  (The rumor is General Manager Jim Hendry was actually mid flight when the deal got done)

Soriano delivered in his first two seasons in Chicago.  Despite nagging leg injuries in 2007 and 2008 that limited him to 135 and 109 games, Soriano still hit 33 homers in 07 and 29 homers in 08, while managing to steal 19 bases each season. Both years he led the Cubs to the playoffs, but struggled each year in first round exits against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.  

2009 was his worst year in Chicago.  He managed to only hit .241 and only hit 20 home runs.  2010 wasn't much better, as Soriano slightly improved to a .258 average and 24 home runs.  2011 was his finally rough year in Chicago, where he hit .244 and had 26 home runs.  During these years, Soriano seemed to have nothing left in his legs and it was hard to watch him in left field.  At the Cubs convention in early 2012, fans booed Soriano when he was introduced.  Through all of this, Soriano maintained his great clubhouse persona and kept up his second to none work ethic.  

In 2012, the Cubs hired Dave McKay to work with the outfielders, and McKay seemed to inject a youth serum into Soriano.  Soriano not only was great at the plate, hitting 32 home runs and driving in 108, but he also played much improved defense in left field.  Under McKay's direction, Soriano even had the best fielding % among left fielders.  Throughout the season, new front office members Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had nothing but positive things to say about Soriano, including praising him for how he is in the clubhouse and  his ability to mentor the young Cubs.

Soriano struggled to start the year, but he has gone on a crazy hot streak lately.  Through 93 games with the Cubs, Sori has hit 17 home runs and driven in 51 while continuing his solid defense in left field.  With the emergence of Junior Lake, the Cubs might have had some incentive to move Sori.

The Cubs and Yankees have been talking about Soriano, and while the deal is yet to be 
announced due to the money changing hands, the two teams have agreed on the trade.  The Cubs will eat all but 6.8 million of the 24.8 million left on Soriano's contract.  The Yankees will pay Soriano 1.8 million for the rest of this year and 5 million for 2014.  In return, in addition to the salary relief, the Cubs will receive high A pitcher Corey Black.  Black was a 4th round pick in 2012, and has some nice upside, despite some concerns.  Black throws in the mid to upper 90s, sometimes touching 100, but he has some control issues, and he needs to develop his secondary pitches.  He projects to be a middle inning reliever or possibly an 8th inning guy mostly because of his hard stuff and his command issues.  Black is a very nice return for Soriano.

While I certainly understand the deal, it is hard to see Soriano go.  While I was a big advocate for moving Sori when he was struggling, he has really grown on me in the past few years.  His work ethic and the way he is so well respected in the clubhouse is really apparent.  While I haven't dealt with him personally, everything I have heard from media members is how Soriano is the consummate pro and is always willing to answer questions, win or loss.  Seeing Sori's smiling face in the dugout will be something that I will definitely miss but I wish him well in New York.

Lastly, I had to put this in there, but check out this awesome pimping of a home run by Daniel Vogelbach.  I don't know what level this is at, but it makes me laugh every time.

Keep checking back through the trading deadline for my analysis on the Cubs other trades.  Names that could be on the move include Nate Schierholtz, Kevin Gregg, David DeJesus, James Russell, and Dioner Navarro.

Have a great weekend baseball fans and don't forget to check out exciting new Cub Junior Lake