Lukewarm Stove: Alfonso Soriano for Vernon Wells? Pass

When it comes to unloading Alfonso Soriano this Winter, despite Theo Epstein’s excellent salesmanship, it seems likely the Cubs would be willing to eat as much as $45 million of the $54 million Soriano is owed over the next three years. Soriano may have some production left on the offensive side of the game, but his defense in left field is growing increasingly unbearable. He is, by all accounts, better suited to DH in the American League. The Cubs, of course, would be happy to accommodate that transition.

But, instead of unloading Soriano for pennies on the dollar, might they instead seek out a bad contract swap? A hallmark of the Jim Hendry era, the goal of a bad contract swap is to take on someone else’s wildly expensive problem, who hopefully fills a need slightly more than your own.

For Soriano, though, the return contract would have to be extremely bad for the other team to consider taking on Soriano.

How bad? Like, Vernon Wells bad.

That’s Phil Rogers’ suggestion, and its one that got the last guy who took it fired. Trading for Vernon Wells was among the primary reasons Tony Reagins was fired as Angels’ GM. Of course, he gave up a little more than Alfonso Soriano – like, for example, playoff superstar Mike Napoli – but Wells was a disaster of Biblical proportions in 2011, his first year with the Angels. Wells hit just .218/.248/.412, and felt the wrath of Angels fans all year.

Now, Alfonso Soriano is no longer a superstar, and the Cubs can’t expect to reap a windfall for trading him. But a straight up Wells/Soriano swap is probably not something the Cubs should consider.

Sure, Wells is three years younger than Soriano, and a marginal upgrade in the field. And, sure, Wells had good offensive years in 2010, 2008, and 2006. But Wells’ contract is even more onerous than Soriano’s. They’re both under contract for the next three years, but Wells is set to make an eye-popping $21 million per year – $3 million more than Soriano.

Additionally, it’s not as if Soriano is a worthless asset, particularly on the right (read: AL) team. Soriano was better than average offensively last year – as he has been six of the last seven years.

Ultimately, would the Cubs be better off “upgrading” from Soriano to Wells for an additional $3 million per year through 2014, or saving some $3 or 4 million per year and finding another left fielder? The answer seems obvious. Indeed, it’s not implausible to believe that the Cubs could find an upgrade over both Soriano and Wells for that $6 or $7 million difference.

Even if the Angels were willing to throw in cash to even up the deal, I’m not sure taking on Wells is something the Cubs should consider. As Theo Epstein has said, the Cubs as an organization need to develop a better appreciate for the concept of a “sunk cost.” The money on Soriano is already spent – but the Cubs’ left field position over the next three years is not. By dumping Soriano, the Cubs open up the possibility of bringing in (or up) a productive left fielder in 2012-14. By taking on Wells instead, left field remains a potentially frustrating obstacle for those three years.

In truth, the only way I could see myself supporting a swap for Wells is if Epstein and the Cubs’ (theoretically improved) scouting department see something correctable in Wells’ 2011 season, and believe he will be an above-average offensive and defensive left fielder over the next three years. In other words: I would want Wells only if Epstein and Co. affirmatively want Wells (rather than merely see him as a means to be rid of Soriano). Concededly, there is reason to believe Wells could bounce back – his anemic .214 batting average on balls in play last year suggests he was incredibly unlucky. I suppose I could be convinced.

But, on the balance, I’d rather see the Cubs cut bait on Soriano, and move forward in a new direction.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

56 responses to “Lukewarm Stove: Alfonso Soriano for Vernon Wells? Pass”

  1. Fishin Phil

    A horrible idea.  There only two people I can think of who could come up with such a bad idea:

    1) Phil Rogers

    2) Jim Hendry

    1. Bails17

      LOL…yeah….I am OUT on this deal.

  2. Randy

    Soriano is an asset that belongs in the American League. In the American League Soriano will hit 25-30 HR’s and his avg. would probably increase somewhat being in a better lineup. Plus, he can’t cost his team runs by not being in the field. Theo knows he needs to find a trade partner in the American League; plain and simple. As far as what you get for him, it is either SOME salary relief or another bad contract. If he can’t find an American League team to match up with this off season, you hang onto Soriano, hope he has a good start and again try at the trading deadline. Eventually, if an American League team can’t match up with Theo, he will go to Ricketts and say we need to eat this contract. I don’t see that happening for another year.

  3. Morgan

    yep get rid of um, sign grady sizemore to play left or center, jackson in center then find a right fielder, idk if colvin is capable of playing everyday. Need, a 3rd baseman, maybe hedley from san diego or Ian steward from colorado, 1st base, maybe lahair can play there, id give um a shot, need 2nd baseman to, one that has a higher obp than average and barney not that person, hes good utility player, and year we need couple sp and few relief pitchers to, long offseason, and a good manager in sanberg will hopefully be

    1. EQ76

      I think Sizemore would be worth the risk in a 1 year trial deal.. kinda like what we gave Pena this year.. the payoff could be huge if he produces and stays healthy.

      1. Lou

        That healthy is….well…a big IF. On a separate note, while Phil Rogers is talking about Wells for Soriano. I’d like to throw in Hafner for Soriano…..makes about as much sense, considering Hafner can no longer play defense.

  4. Kansas Cubs Fan

    As much as I want to see Soriano go, he was our only power hitter during the beginning of the season, but then he dropped off the face of the earth.

  5. EQ76

    we cold at least get a decent prospect or middle of the road player in return if we trade Soriano to the AL and pay most of his salary.  another bad contract makes no sense especially since Soriano still has a semi-productive bat..

  6. Spencer

    How is anyone going to know if the Cubs front office affirmatively wants Wells rather than acquiring him as a means to get rid of Soriano? It’s not like they are gonna say “yeah we got Wells, don’t really like the way he plays, but at least we moved Soriano.” If the Cubs acquire Wells they are of course going to talk him up like he’s an awesome superstar who had a really down year. Doesn’t look like a good move. Find someone younger and MUCH cheaper.

  7. Robbie

    Trade Soriano and get Sam Fuld back! :D

    1. MDcA

      Then we can all be Scrappy’s and have a Tony campana Sam Fuld and Marlon Byrd 2012 starting out field :D
      for the first time ever the Chicago Cubs will lead the Majors in Stolen Bases!

      1. TWC

        … and be last in the league in OBP and BA/RiSP!

        1. Jason

          And runs
          And wins

          No thanks

  8. oswego chris

    Phil Rogers doesn’t know jack..he can’t compete with Brett or our writers on the message board…I think he just makes crap up….NO WAY the new regime would do this deal…why would you do this and take up a space? just to feel like you are getting someting out of your money…no more bad deals for bad deals unless under thirty with an upside…I love what Theo said the other day about assets…and as bad as he is…right now Soriano is a more valuable asset than Wells…

    1. DRock

      My thoughts exactly, Chris. I HATE the sound of this Vernon Wells idea. I am all for trying to trade Soriano to the AL though (perhaps for prospects or pitching), and then working on getting a replacement in the OF such as a young superstar like Matt Kemp. I hear the Dodgers may be looking to unload him before he is a free agent.

  9. Cakes15

    Why dont we put Lahair at 3rd, he has afterall played 1st, so I’m sure he can be a decent 3rd baseman. And then sign Fielder, now we have 2 power lefties in our lineup.

    1. Jim

      I don’t see how playing first prepares a guy to play third. Does he have the arm to make the throws? The mobility to field bunts? The range to get to hard hit balls on either side of where he positions himself?

      Third base is a world of a difference than first or left field.

  10. Cheryl

    Don’t try to stretch LaHair too thin. First base or left or right field is enough for him to do. As for Soriano, sometimes a bad contract swap can bite you. I’d rather the new GM or Theo concentrate on trading him or finding a home for him in the American League. He’s best as a DH now.

  11. Cakes15

    I completely agree, but he seemed to have adecent enpugh arm in the outfield, and id gladly give up mobility to field bunts if he can bring his AAA bat or one close to that to the majors. He has the possibility of being a good big league hitter, and at the samwe time we cant pass on signing fielder.

  12. Theo epstein's Twin

    Cubs wanna be Contenders? Here’s what my twin has to do(:
    sign fielder
    re-sign aramis
    sign mark burhlehe ( sorry for mispsell)
    maybe get a small trade done… say.. matt joyce? brennan boesch? wel’ll be contending ina jippie :D

  13. auggie1955

    Where does Rogers come up with these crazy hair-brained ideas? The only good thing is that Phil is always wrong, so we have nothing to worry about here.

  14. Cliffy

    For all those who think the Cubs could/should be contenders in 2012, don’t you think it would be a better idea to flush all that crap off or team and system and start fresh. Please no more with the quick fixes, do it the right way, build a strong foundation for long term sustained sucess.

    1. Fishin Phil

      Amen Cliffy!  That is the whole point behind the changes we are going through.

       

    2. Rancelot

      Yes…I 100% endorse THIS ^^^^^^^! Companies do it every day, why can’t the Cubs. It’s time to turn the page to a new era and embrace change. If the braintrust has determined that certain players are not part of the plan, thank them for their service, present them with a parting gift (balance of their contract), and get started on constructing this baby the New Cubs Way!

    3. Kyle

      No, I don’t think that would be better at all. You don’t build a strong foundation for success by wasting the resources you already have in hand.

      As Epstein has said in his press statements, every season is a chance to win, and every chance to win is sacred. He’s placed a heavy emphasis on getting better use out of the resources the Cubs already have.

      It might feel good emotionally to complete the breakup with the Hendry era and throw away a season, but it’s not the smartest way to run the ballclub.

      1. Lou

        But what resources are firmly there? Garza, Castro, Cashner. And two out of those three the Cubs aren’t likely to rid themselves. My problem isn’t with 2012. That’s a given. My problem is going forward beyond 2012, when the FA market opens up more. Also, there’s that SP thing and how the Cubs build a competitive team around something that’s virtually non-existent in this organization.

      2. Kyle

        They have six players under contract, six players eligible for arbitration and about eight MLB guys in pre-arbitration years. Few, if any, of those players are below replacement level. They are all resources.

        Most importantly, money is a resource. Presuming they aren’t significantly cutting payroll, the Cubs have roughly $40 million to spend after all the players above are accounted for.

        Unless you plan on giving $100k to every kid on Hispanola, you can’t spend it all on prospects, so it’d be foolish to punt a season. As Epstein said, the team can work on parallel fronts. Building for the future and being competitive in 2012 do not work against each other in any way.

        Giving up on 2012 isn’t helping the future, it’s just giving fans some feeling of catharsis.

      3. EQ76

        I agree with Cliffy and many others here but keep in mind one thing, the Cubs will try to be competitive in 2012.  They can build a strong organization from the ground up without sucking the whole time..so many have the assumption that you have to do a total rebuild.. you don’t.  they will have a top5 or top 10 payroll do work with next year.

        If they don’t spend foolishly and bring in the right couple of pieces, they could contend next year, especially if Pujols and Fielder walk… the division weakens some which only helps us.

        No way Epstein/Hoyer put a crap team on the field next year.. they’ll put together a decent team, hopefully better than 2011′s team, with a strong focus on building for the future.. it’s not impossible to do so.  Shoot, a decent starting pitcher or two and a closer that doesn’t blow every lead will help emmensely.

        1. EQ76

          I guess I typed this the same time Kyle did.. I agree totally..

      4. Rancelot

        That’s fine…we agree to disagree. I prefer the “scorched earth” method and only keep around usable pieces moving forward. I’m sorry, but keeping Soriano around only because the Cubs are devoid of power is short-sighted. Do you really want to see the continued poor play in LF and the jog to 1B on a shot to the warning track for the sole reason of not wanting to waste contracted “resources”?

        Looking at the 40-man roster, I think the Cubs can definitely cut ties with the following:
        John Grabow (ineffectiveness), Rodrigo Lopez, Ramon Ortiz, Carlos Zambrano (for all the known reasons), Koyie Hill (better options are available), Aramis Ramirez (it will ultimately be his choice), Alfonso Soriano (the time is NOW). I do believe that Marlon Byrd should be retained to realize the duration of his contract but only on a part-time basis. The Cubs have some nice bench players (Baker, Barney, DeWitt, Johnson, Campana, LaHair)…but herein lies the problem, they should be bench players, not every day.

        1. Kyle

          The Cubs will have to pay Soriano $19 million in 2012 (or convince some other team to pay all or part of it).

          The Cubs will have to field a LFer in 2012.

          Alfonso Soriano is the best LFer the Cubs currently have.

          All of the above are true.

          Whether or not I’m tired of his baserunning or defense or whatever doesn’t change any of those facts.

          1. EQ76

            “Alfonso Soriano is the best LFer the Cubs currently have.”  

            - He’s the best offensive LFer they have, there’s about 10 guys that could play the position better defensively.

            1. Kyle

              He’s the best in combined value between offense and defense.

              1. Cheryl

                He may have been once, but not any more. LaHair is better in left field although its not his strong suit. And, LaHair may be pretty good offensively. Hopefully LaHair will work on strengthening his arm for throws from LF. Right now I pencil him in as a number three hitter.

                1. Kyle

                  Ah, LaHair.

                  If you want to pencil him in as the left-handed half a platoon LFer, I don’t think that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

                  But as an every day LFer? No, he’s not better than Soriano. And I say that with no great affection for Soriano.

                  LaHair is fooling a lot of people who don’t understand the PCL park factors. He might be a useful bench bat or maybe even a cheap platoon option, but he’s nothing more than that. And he’d be worse defensively in LF than even Soriano is.

          2. Rancelot

            And the Cubs should be bound by your list of truths? Break the chains and release the beast. I really don’t understand why you feel the new regime must absorb the missteps of the previous administration. Just because Soriano is “the best LF”, in your words, on the roster, does not mean it is the right decision to keep him around. Ever heard of the best interest principle?

            1. Kyle

              Well, they pretty much have to be bound by them, because they are all facts. Reality has a way of binding people to facts.

              Of course. If a course of action presents itself to the Cubs that makes sense to get rid of him, they should do it. There might be a trade whereby another team takes on some of his contract and the Cubs can use the remaining money to improve in LF or elsewhere. But that would *always* be true.

              The idea that we want a “fresh start” so we should get rid of him no matter what doesn’t enter into it. That’s emotional fiddle-faddle that Epstein was brought here to eradicate in the organization.

              1. hardtop

                “Well, they pretty much have to be bound by them, because they are all facts. Reality has a way of binding people to facts.”

                ha! tell that to karl rove.

                im kind of with you.  if they can get someone to cover 4 mil of his salary, no harm in letting him go… but i wouldn’t give him away.  when he gets hot, he can still contribute significantly.  there are a lot of guys out there making 4 to 6 mil who have less value than soriano at the plate (few if any have less value defensively).   i certainly would not take on wells at 21 mil annually.  it wouldn’t be that awful to have fonzie trotting around left field for another year.

              2. Rancelot

                Time will tell what happens. Your confidence in how Theo and company proceed will be tested. Hopefully the braintrust will channel my fantasy world as opposed to your cold, rigid, restrictions of reality.

  15. die hard

    Soriano Colvin Campana share left field….Byrd to right…Jackson in center

  16. chris margetis

    Not to take any heat off Rogers, but this move was bandied around in the LA Times last week also. The Angels were super high on Soriano when the Cubs signed him.

    How about a one year flyer on Harang, and a 3 year deal for Malholm?

  17. Waveland Ave

    Brett are you feelin Grady cause I am if he does well ship him off at deadline for prospects

  18. Aaron

    Anyone else want to try Soriano at 1B? It’s been suggested before, but now seems to be something to try at least.

    He’s obviously a declining outfielder, be it a loss of arm, speed or desire – even a lethal combination of the three. Putting him in the hole at 1B would allow the Cubs to explore other productive options at LF, and get the most out of Soriano for the remainder of his contract.

    Thoughts?

    1. HotRuta

      Mmmm. Don’t think so … don’t think we want him anywhere near the right side of the infield. At first base you have to PAY ATTENTION to what’s going on; you never know when some pitcher might throw over to hold on a runner. That would require some concentration.

      On the other hand, at least for the 81 home games, 3B is the closest fielding position to the dugout. Hardly any effort required to get there; you wouldn’t have to walk ALL THE WAY over to the other side of the infield. Best of all: no ivy-covered walls that jump out at you from out of nowhere.

      But seriously … I think he could do less damage at 3B than at 1B. He’s still got the arm for it, but if he’s actually going to bend over for ground balls, then he needs to lose about 20 pounds worth of pot-gut he cultivated and nurtured since he got to the Cubs. That might even help him run the bases, too.

      He last played 3B for the Yankees, 11 years ago; he actually came up as a SS (!!!). And I would let him bat leadoff, too — we want to maximize his HRs / value coming into the July trading deadline …

  19. rocky8263

    In 2006 Soriano was signed as a second baseman and refused to play left for the Nationals. Remember? Threatened to quit and then agreed to play left.

    1. Kyle

      He was worried that moving to LF would harm his ability to get a major FA contract. Fortunately for him, Hendry (with the possible intrusion of the Tribune Co.) didn’t see it that way.

  20. Jason

    Not sure where to out this (I tried to register for the MB but never got an e-mail back) so I’ll put it here. Baseball Think Factory has already posted ZIPs projections for 2012.

    http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/oracle/discussion/2012_zips_projections_-_chicago_cubs/

    A couple of things to note:

    1) They’re projecting LaHair to have an above average bat (107 OPS+)
    2) Toward the bottom of the page, look at the comps for Starlin Castro (Jeter, Yount, Brett) :)

  21. die hard

    Quade should file suit to challenge decision to fire him even tho with pay cause firing adversely affects future as manager. He should challenge to set precedent like Curt Flood did for ballplayers. Q could do likewise for managers. A 2 year contract means 2 years in the dugout.

    1. hansman1982

      Die Hard you’re so smart…players never get released!  Poor Quade, what did he ever do to deserve getting fired.  I think after he sues the Cubs he should walk into the courtroom in a gorilla costume just to show Theo who is boss.

    2. Dave

      Quade is an awful manager, suing the Cubs wouldn’t change that.  It would, however, allow a lot of baseball people to come out and say on the record that Quade is an awful manager.