Make no mistake about it – the Chicago Cubs would love to trade power hitting outfielder Alfonso Soriano. Soriano is still producing, but since the team doesn’t have the feel of a contender in the near future, paying him the $18 million remaining on his contract in 2014 is something the Cubs would like to avoid. The club had a deal in place for him with the San Francisco Giants last year, but he used his no-trade clause to shoot down the deal. With the deadline fast approaching, the club surely would like to make another trade that sticks this time.
Unfortunately for them, Soriano wasn’t making things very easy. Despite a respectable .263 batting average in April, the slugger hit only one home run and drove in a total of two runs the entire month. Things didn’t go much better in May and heading into the final series in June, Soriano’s average had dipped to .245 and he still had only seven home runs on the season. Since then he has been on an absolute tear.
In that final series of the month against the Seattle Mariners, Soriano went 7-14 at the plate, hit two home runs and drove in five runs. That propelled him into July where he’s starting to look like the Soriano of old. As of July 13, Soriano is batting nearly .300, has six home runs and 13 RBI. The six bombs are the most he’s had in a month all season and we’re not even at the halfway point of July.
At 37, he is still proving he can hit for average and power. Soriano could be playing a little better in the field as his five errors and .969 fielding percentage prove, but his seven outfield assists are on pace for one of the highest totals of his career since moving from second base. Soriano is heating up at just the right time for clubs looking to swing a deal.
Besides the recent hot streak, the one thing that makes Soriano more attractive than ever before is that he only has one year left on his current contract. $18 million is a lot to pay for one player, but with Soriano producing the way he has, teams will be more willing to open their wallets knowing it won’t cost them over the long haul.
Better still is that a team trading for Soriano will have a viable asset for next season. Even if a franchise acquires him this year and isn’t in contention next season, assuming he still is productive in 2014, Soriano will be even more valuable at that point because he’ll be in the final year of his contract. As much as he might draw this year in terms of a trade return, he could command slightly more next season since there won’t be any more financial risk to assume in 2015.
As far as teams that may be potential fits, the Giants could again fit the bill. They pursued him last season and still needing more power in the outfield could look to him again with the light-hitting Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco manning two spots. Despite their losing record, the club is still within striking distance of the division title.
Another team might be the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even though I recently wrote of the unlikelihood of them adding a major star, if they went after anybody it might be Soriano. Pittsburgh could absorb his salary for 2014 and he has the experience playing in the National League Central that could be attractive. I think it’s an outside chance that they pursue him.
It’s not only National League clubs that could have an interest, either. Soriano could be useful to American League clubs in need of a designated hitter as well. Earlier this year, SI.com’s Jay Jaffe identified several teams in the AL that would be good fits, including the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, and Tampa Bay Rays.
One team that had interest in the beginning of the season, but is probably out of the running now, is the New York Mets. The Mets inquired about a deal for Soriano this spring, but are far out of contention for a playoff spot. The club doesn’t appear to be in the position of buyers sitting so far behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves.
Soriano’s contract may still be too unattractive to potential teams, but the outfielder has made himself more desirable by breaking out of his slump earlier this year.
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