Monday, January 16, 2012

Can The Chicago Cubs Trade Alfonso Soriano?

Yes. Of course. Anybody can be traded. If the Chicago Cubs eat the entirety of Alfono Soriano's contract and then throw even more money on top of that, even the Japanese teams would be clamoring for his rights. Any one player is tradeable — but paying other teams to take players away does not make sense.

So the question is more: Who would want Alfonso Soriano if the Cubs demand a reasonably fair trade?

And that, frankly, is crazy difficult to answer.

My colleague at Fangraphs, Eric Seidman, took a look into Soriano's value this morning, and I'm sad to report he did not find any secret, over-looked gem — some secret stat that makes Soriano an asset to the Cubs.

The truth is Soriano is more fourth outfielder than starter now, which is a bummer because the Cubs are paying him top dollar. Still, Soriano has great value. Seidman puts it perfectly:
If Soriano was on the free agent market right now, a number of teams would seek his services. He can hit lefties and field well, and that is usually enough for a team to have interest in a one- or two-year deal at $2-3 million per season.
So, if we think of Soriano as a free agent, the 36-year-old looks like an undervalued asset, not an overpaid albatross. Smart teams — that is, teams who like to platoon outfielders and are familiar with advanced fielding statistics like UZR — will no doubt understand how Soriano's value could easily exceed that $2-3M mark. But, given Alfonso's age, it would need to be a team in contention as well.


The Tampa Bay Rays might be a good fit, but their roster already has a few Soriano types in OF Justin Ruggiano and former Cub OF Brandon Guyer. So, they would be dis-inclined to pay for a more pricey and older version of what they already have.

The Toronto Blue Jays look poised to start the young LF Eric Thames in left field, and given how poorly he performed against lefties in his limited 2011 PAs (67 wRC+ in 91 PAs), Soriano could offer a nice balance as the Jays ease Thames into more full-time appearances.

We would expect the Seattle Mariners would want a platoon partner for LF Mike Carp, but he has mashed lefties up to this point in his career (132 wRC+).

The San Diego Padres have RF Will Venable, who sports a disgusting 60 wRC+ against lefties. However, the Padres already have OF Chris Denorfia who can pummel lefties and play all three outfield positions — as far as we know, Soriano can only be effective in left field, though right would not be a huge stretch, I imagine.

One possible fit would be the Cleveland Indians. If they are ready to call LF Michael Brantley a lost cause against lefties, then Soriano could make a clear upgrade over their current RHB backup, OF Shelley Duncan. Duncan is a great 4th outfielder, but he's not really a killer against lefties.

The Chicago White Sox might be a good fit personnel-wise, but they are in a massive rebuilding mode right — one the likes of which I have neither seen nor expected — so they obviously would have little interest in giving a prospect in exchange for an aging part-time player.

The Boston Red Sox have LF Carl Crawford in left — and he's nothing great against lefties — but his contract and defense necessitate he remain a full-time starter until knee problems render him, well, Soriano'd.

The New York Yankees might actually have a place for a Soriano home coming. They currently have OF Brett Gardner in left with OF Chris Dickerson as his backup, both of whom struggle against LHP. Soriano cannot replicate Gardner's fielding by any stretch, but he could offer some hitting assistance as well as insurance in case CF Curtis Granderson becomes Curtis Granderson again, and loses his ability to hit dingers off lefties (a bet I would happily hedge if I were the Yankees).

Regardless of how it all shakes out, they are not really many (or any) teams clamoring for Soriano's services. He does come with the small chance of regaining his former glory, but in all likelihood, Soriano is nearing the end. Hopefully the Cubs can get one last asset out of him before he leaves.

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