Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum allowed a moment of candor yesterday when discussing the huge season of his aging left fielder.

“It’s as high as it can be,” Sveum said when asked about Soriano’s trade value, per the Tribune. “Those kind of things are all [dependent] on what you’re getting back and all those kind of things. The replacement value of that is very difficult to find.”

As noted in today’s Series Preview, Soriano’s production has indeed reached levels he hasn’t seen in years – his .825 OPS is the best he’s had since his injury-shortened 2008 season, his 32 homers are the most he’s had since 2007, and his 108 RBI are the most he’s ever had. His defense is the best it’s ever been in the outfield (he’s approaching above average!), and he’s going to play in more games this year than he’s ever played with the Cubs in a single season.

In other words, there are many reasons to agree that Soriano’s trade value hasn’t been higher (since signing on with the Cubs, that is). Then again, in a theme you’ll hear all offseason, he’s 36 years old, is signed for two more years at $18 million per, and has full no-trade rights.

Those twin facts do not great trade value create.

Ultimately, we’re going to hear about Soriano trade rumors many times in the coming months. But for the no-trade rights, those rumors might even come to fruition. If Soriano were a free agent this Winter, what kind of contract might he expect to get? Given his rejuvenated production and defense, it isn’t inconceivable to imagine him getting something like two years and $14 million (FanGraphs has Soriano worth 4.3 WAR this year, which would put his dollar value to the Cubs in 2012 at something close to $22 million – just sayin’ (and, yes, that number is undoubtedly inflated because FanGraphs *loves* Soriano’s defense this year – Baseball Reference has him at 1.8 WAR, which would put his value closer to $10 million)). If the Cubs ate enough to take that down to two years and $10 million, might they get a nice prospect, while saving $10 million in the process (something that seemed insanely inconceivable just five months ago)?

Maybe. But those no-trade rights, man. Those no-trade rights.

He’s said he won’t accept a trade to a team other than a competitive, Eastern-half-of-the-country type (except for the Dodgers), and we’ve heard whispers that he’s already excluded the Orioles, Pirates and Rays. That clips out a huge portion of the trading population. Factor in his age, and a possible disbelief that this season was a resurgence rather than a swan song, and you might have just one or two interested teams to which Soriano would actually consider a trade. When you’ve got that kind of limited market, it doesn’t matter how much value Soriano might have according to the back of his baseball card. It’s hard to put a useful deal together.

Ultimately, the Cubs might find the market for Soriano better next Summer (which, for most players, would be counterintuitive). There won’t be as many freely available players like him as there will be this Winter, and there might be a couple teams more desperate than they are now. Further, the Cubs would have paid down an additional chunk of the money Soriano’s owed, and maybe he would have shown by then that 2012 wasn’t a fluke.

It still seems like there are more questions than answers at this point (not the least of which is: do the Cubs really want to dump Soriano, given that there’s no one in waiting behind him to replace his production?). Obviously it will be one of the bigger story lines this offseason.

  • CubFan Paul

    Trade him and $$33M for someone’s Top 10 prospect and then sign BJ Upton

    • Featherstone

      Or just get the top prospect and not sign BJ Upton. That sounds better.

      • terencem

        Amen. BJ Upton sucks.

        • terencem
          • Timmy

            I dunno at this point I’d rather have Soriano than Upton.

  • scorardpaul

    dump, dump, dump eat it all and dump for the best prospect you think you can get. He will not be on this team when we r good, so he is a negative asset at the monoent. He could return a potential positive asset when we r better.

    • CubFan Paul

      Agreed. Because of his age & salary the time is ‘now’ to move him.

  • MightyBear

    To me Soriano is like every player on the team. You only trade him for value. If you have to eat all his salary and get a doubtful A prospect, you don’t trade him. If you have someone pay all his salary and you get a top 10 AAA prospect, you trade him. Exaggerations to make a point. It’s like Barney, good defensive ballplayer with lots of intangibles. You don’t give him away but if the Phillies offer Halladay and Lee and eat all their salary, its a no brainer. Another exaggeration to make a point.

    • bloctoad

      Remind me what kind of year both Halladay and Kree had and also how a similar deal worked out for the Dodgers.

    • bloctoad

      Remind me what kind of year both Halladay and Lee had and how a similar deal worked out for the Dodgers.

  • lou brock lives

    He posted those numbers & still is on a team losing 100 games. Do people attend Cub games to see him ? So why is he taking bats away from others who need the experience ?
    Play Sappelt & Campana out there until Soler is ready in 2 years.
    Tell Soriano’s agent to prepare a list of teams/cities he is willing to play in. Then make the best deal with one of those teams that is on his list. If Soriano’s agent is not willing to comply with the request for a list advise him that his player will not like being a Cub next year & it will be very unpleasant for him.

    • King Jeff

      The only reason I can think for keeping him is because of his leadership and hard work. I know some fans question his dedication, but I’ve never heard anything but great things about him from his teammates.

      On the other hand, I agree with you, I think he needs to go, even if it’s just to get Campana or Sappelt, or even LaHair a full shot.

      • Whiteflag

        I don’t think those guys are anywhere near an everyday player. Campana can be fun to watch, but I’m not sure I would rather see him out there everyday over Soriano. None of the three are the future of the organization in my opinion. Why kick him to the curb for guys who will never make a everyday MLB roster?

    • baldtaxguy

      You would only consider trading Soriano if young talent coming back was part of the equation. There is zero reason to free up LF for the next two seasons.

      You strategy to essentially bull through the no-trade clause and extort the player would be noted by future free agents and other teams’ front offices who the Cubs would compete against for future free agents.

    • santo’s toupe

      the reason campana doesn’t play is cause he sucks. he has one, one thing to add to a team and it is as a pinch runner. how many teams with 100 losses actually need a worthless asset? none!!

  • cubsin

    Soriano at 40 would be a better everyday LF than Sappelt or LaHair. Soriano at 50 would be better than Campana.

    • wait til next year…..again

      I couldn’t agree more. I do not see the love affair the people have with Campana. All he can do is run. Everything else he does is well below average. As for LaHair, we have already seen him as an everyday player. No need to see him play anymore.

      • art

        lol, agree.

      • art

        lol, agree.

    • Katie

      I’m pretty sure he’s already 50 years old.

    • scorardpaul

      Cubsin, I guess if you are being like Mightybear, and trying to exaggerate, then yes I agree with you.
      But….. Soriano will not be around after his 2 year deal is up. If we can either free up money, or get a prospect then at least something good might come out of it. The way it sits now he is just in the way for 2 years. He is taking a spot of a player (maybee not even on this team yet) that we need to be working with. We are not winning anything next year. Lets try to build a fondation for the future, not just be a place for an old dude to hang out. We need something better in the future than him.

      • scorardpaul

        The sooner we get his salary, or him off the team the better our future looks

  • fortyonenorth

    I’d opine that there’s almost zero chance that we trade Sori before the end of his contract. He simply is not interested in going anywhere. We can debate all day *why* he should take a trade–or what we expect in return–but the guy is 37, he’s happy in Chicago and, at this point in his career, he has bigger priorities than playing in the post season. Based on his words and actions, I just don’t see it happening under any circumstances.

  • CM

    Off topic but I just saw the Cubs on the list of teams with “protected” first round picks, meaning, if they were to sign a FA with a qualifying offer, they’d lose a second round pick and not the first. All things considered does this make signing a FA more attractive this year?

    • King Jeff

      Are there going to be very many qualifying free agents this year who are going to turn down $12 million plus and go to free agency? I think Hamilton and Grienke are probably locks to do so, and possibly Michael Bourn, maybe NIck Swisher if he gets greedy. Are the Cubs going to be in on any of those guys?

    • Brett

      It’s been discussed a bit – my thought is that, all things equal, sure, you’d want to sign the big boys when you have a protected first rounder. But, at the same time, you don’t want to sign a “big” free agent just because you’re drafting in the top 10. For one thing, the free agent crop this Winter is pretty weak. Secondly, you don’t want to blow your timeline completely.

      So, short answer is: yup, definitely cuts toward signing this Winter. But is it enough to overcome the other stuff? Not for me. (*Maybe* for Greinke, but I don’t really think so.)

    • Rizzo 44

      I would sign Hamilton, Greinke, Dan Haren, and 1 other starting FA starting pitcher. I would trade Marmol, Garza, and find some BP help. Also I would try and make a big play for Chase Headley of the Padres. We would be stacked. I would also consider trading DeJesus for some prospects. I know most fans wont like my ideas, but thats what I would try if I were Theo.

      • Josh

        You’re an idiot nothing else to say.

        • TWC

          That seems an awfully inappropriate response.

          • John

            Greinke was traded midseason. He will not cost a draft pick.

      • ferrets_bueller

        I said it a million times last offseason….best move we could have made was dealing for Headley. Now his value is as high as it probably ever will be. Dude is an absolute stud. If you can still get him for a reasonable price…I still say do it.

  • cubchymyst

    I know there is always talk about prime years, but how many different decades are taken into account for that study? Athletes today are taking better care of their bodies and medical advances allow for faster recovery from both major and minor injuries. I’m not saying players reflexes do not decrease as they age but the rate of decrease might be slower now then it has been in the past (This has nothing to do with trading/keeping Soriano just a random thought about aging players and peak years).

  • Jackalope

    “If the Cubs ate enough to take that down to two years and $10 million, might they get a nice prospect, while saving $10 million in the process”

    I’m not sure what I think about this. The Cubs signed DeJesus for 2 yrs/$10 mil. Which would you rather have: DeJesus or Soriano minus a prospect? I think I’d rather just sign a DeJesus type than trade for Soriano.

    • Brett

      I think it’s a pretty close call, but it seems like the average team, all things equal, would rather have Soriano for the next two years over DeJesus. I would.

      (I thought that DeJesus deal was a pretty sweet one, too – I think injury concerns from 2011 brought his price down slightly, which is easy to forget now that he was healthy all year.)

      • Kyle

        I’m surprised so many consider it close.Soriano is a much better hitter and at least as good defensively.

    • Wilbur

      Good point, but what makes the trade of Soriano a winner in that comparison versus signing a “DeJesus” type are the HRs and RBI. I realy like DeJesus, but he can’t drive in the runs the way Soriano can, and that is what someone would be trying to improve on their team by trading for Soriano – power/run production.

  • Stevie B

    I say get what you can in salary relief and move on. Face it friends, we are 3 years from seriously competing and we need to strip this roster to the bone from what it was.
    Rizzo, Castro, Vizciano, Jackson, Wood and Castillo are pretty much all that we will keep from the bunch that you are watching, so if we find a trade partner, pull that trigger.
    Please prepare yourselves for another bad year in 2013. It is unavoidable, and necessary.
    Im here for the duration, so strip it Theo and Jed….strip it to the bone.

    • Bill

      Why do they need to strip it to the bone? I’ve never understood this thinking. If they get someone to pay Soriano’s salary, they aren’t going to get even a modest prospect. The one thing the Cubs have plenty of right now is money. Soriano’s contract is up in two years. Dumping guys with a bloated payroll made some sense, but why just give Soriano away. I’d rather the Cubs eat the entire contract and try and get a better prospect. If the CUbs can’t get a quality prospect, just keep the guy. He’s not blocking anyone in the minors.

      I just don’t understand why it was necessary to gut all the talent on the team. How were these guys blocking prospects? Couldn’t the FO have added a few pieces and competed this year and next? Is it really necessary to tank seasons? I understand the hesitance to add big contracts, like Pujols and Fielder, but A Ramirez contract wasn’t outrageous.

      Was/Is it possible to win now AND develop/build up the farm system? I think the answer is an obvious “YES”. I concede that Brett makes a good case about the FA class being weak, so that’s why he wouldn’t spend the big money on the 1-2 great players available. However, from reading the opinions of many fans, if last year’s FA was the most talented FA class ever, it wouldn’t have mattered, fans wanted Theo to dump players and sign no mid/big contracts. For many, I think the same philosophy holds true for this year. Since Hendry invested poorly on FA’s, they don’t want to invest in FA’s until we have so much minor league talent that it won’t matter if the FA is a miss. I just can’t wrap my head around that philosophy. We should be trying to win now and tomorrow. As Kyle has said numerous times, the problem wasn’t Hendry’s FA signings, it was the horrible drafts and player development in the minor leagues. If a FA missed, Hendry was unable to call up any minor league prospect to make an impact. The farm system was bad.

  • Art

    Ahhh the “but for” statement classic lawyer speak. As for Soriano a lot of obstacles in getting him traded but his value is probably as high as its going to be. He will most likely get traded before opening day I’m sure Hopstein will not want to risk an injury diminishing trade value (see Garza) especially given Soriano’s age.

  • Stevie B

    Oh…and Samrdzjia (sp) >>>>>

  • Rizzo 44

    Now that the Cubs don’t have to give up their First round pick it’s time to go get Hamilton at 6 years and $175M that would be my choice. Also I would go get 3 of the top 10 pitchers in the FA market and make a trade with the Padres for Chase Headley. Just my thoughts.

    • RoughRiider

      I don’t think anyone is going to give Hamilton a 6 year deal based on his past problems. Too much of a gamble. 3-4 years at most. Remember that he will be 32 just after the beginning of the season. I do wish the Cubs had kept him when they had him instead of drafting him for the Reds.

    • Noah

      So you’d just go ahead and put the Cubs in the exact same situation they got themselves into starting in 2007, and give us 5 more years of utter futility waiting for contracts on aging players to expire starting in 2015? No thanks.

    • Drew7

      Headley isn’t going anywhere

      Hamilton may get that kind of a deal, but definitely not from The Cubs.

      The 3 pitchers may happen, but I doubt it is one of the top 2 or 3.

      • Brett

        I think Headley might go somewhere … but not to the Cubs.

  • calicubsfan007

    Personal opinion here, but it really comes down to how the Cubs want to approach this season. If they think that they have enough of a young nucleus, then I think we should keep Sori and go after the big guns in FA. If they don’t think they have enough of a young nucleus, then I think we should trade Sori for what we can and go after Maholm/DeJesus like guys again. I am sure many of you are saying duh right now to my post, but it really hasn’t been addressed yet.

    • Brent Jamison

      I think the latter will be their approach. The big name free agents won’t come until they really feel they can compete. Another year of development for the young guys and mid tier free agents will probably be the aim. As for Soriano, I think he will be dealt if the right deals comes. I’m sure his name will be brought up a lot at the Winter Meetings.

      • Kyle

        I bet the Cubs kick the tires on Grienke, but they probably won’t keep up with someone like the Dodgers.

        That’s fine. Great players are great, but I’ll settle for roster-wide competence.

        • Brett

          How much do you think Greinke will get, Kyle? I’m thinking he gets eight years at $22/23ish million per. Just seems nuts, but is understandable given the lack of top-end options on the market this year.

          • Kyle

            The sky is the limit. New TV deals have teams rolling in money. Eight years is a ton for a pitcher, but I can see 7×25

  • JR

    Does anyone have a realistic idea of where Soriano would actually accept a trade too? It sounds like he wanted the Dodgers and an east coast team or 2. So maybe the Yanks.. Brett, do you have an idea of where he would actually accept a trade too? Because if he only has the Dodgers and Yanks we aren’t getting jack back for him.

  • ssckelley

    If you can get a good enough prospect in return then make the deal. But if all you are going to get is fringe prospects and have to eat majority of the salary then you might as well keep him. The Cubs lineup is going to need some pop hitting behind Rizzo next year anyway so just giving Soriano away would make no sense as that creates yet another hole in the lineup.

    • Rizzo 44

      Keep him and sign Hamilton to play CF then move him to LF when Soriano is gone. Its simple people. Trade for Headley an then you have a great Lineup. Jackson RF, Castro SS, Rizzo 1B, Hamilton CF, Soiano LF, Headley 3B, Castilio C, Barney 2B. That will win the Central next year with some better SP and BP help. Its not hard and the lineup is balanced!

  • Stevie B

    We need a RF (Jesus is a 4th OFr), CF, 3B , 2 starting pitchers, and 2 solid BP guys.

    Thats just not available on the FA market.

    • Noah

      Why do you think DeJesus is a 4th OF? I know he doesn’t have ideal power for a RF, but of all RF with at least 400 plate appearances, he has the 9th highest OBP. At between 1.5 and 1.8 WAR, depending on whose WAR you’re using, he’s provided $7.5 million to $9 million in value for $5 million. DeJesus is not ideal, but of all the problems the Cubs have for 2013, a year they are very unlikely to compete, David DeJesus is not one of them. Beyond that, I’m sure the Cubs are hoping to trade DeJesus mid-season. They should be showcasing him, not benching him.

      • ssckelley

        I do not get all the love for DeJesus, decent OBP with little speed. I would rather have a slugger in the corner outfield positions. I could tolerate DeJesus a little bit better if the Cubs had a true leadoff hitter because then DeJesus slides in at #2, which is the ideal spot for him.

        • Drew7

          If his ideal spot is #2, why is he not a good leadoff guy?

          • ssckelley

            15 stolen base attempts this year, successful on 7 of them. You get someone with speed in that leadoff spot and DeJesus is a perfect #2. He is patient at the plate to give the leadoff hitter a chance to steal 2nd, makes good contact, and if he walks now you potentially 2 on in front of Rizzo and Soriano.

            • Drew7

              Or you potentially have a guy getting thrown out trying to steal in front of your best hitters.

              SB’s are a risk, and can be icing on the cake (better utilized towards the bottom of the order, but that’s a different argument). The main thing you want out of the top is the ability to get on base. I happen to be one that believes your best hitter should hit #2, and a solid on-base guy should hit #1. On this team, I think DeJesus is a solid leadoff guy.

    • Drew7

      DDJ has been exactly league-average for a corner OF’er, and provides the OBP this team is sorely lacking.

  • calicubsfan007

    For RF, maybe Ross or Swisher
    CF, maybe Pagan
    3B, I like Chavez
    SP, Jackson and Sanchez
    BP, Mark Lowe and maybe Howell
    This is only if the Cubs decide to only add guys through FA

  • JR

    Sure Soriano was great this year. Who knew?? I sure as hell thought he was done.. But my thing is I don’t see anyway that he can be this good next year unless he is dh’ing. But like Brett said his NTC makes him very difficult to get value for him. I just hope they have an honest conversation with him and tell him how much the Cubs will suck next year (because they will). And he opens up the market some..

  • ruby2626

    Wow, a lot of overly optimistic and clueless callers. We are not signing Hamilton who will be 32 for $175M, will never happen, totally goes against Theo’s talk of not paying for past performance. We are not going to get Chase Headley, his asking price was super high before his breakout season and will be off the charts now. We need to stick with the program even if it means another horrible season or 2. Personally I do come to the ballpark to watch Soriano and he is one of the few guys I actually watch when I record a game and speed through it in 20 minutes. He obviously is not the future but really he is not taking at bats away from anyone that deserves them.

    • JR

      Cubs aren’t signing any big name players, that is very obvious. Not sure why people keep talking about it, like there is a chance of Hamilton or Greinke coming. I am not saying it’s a bad idea to sign some top shelf pitching (since our farm systems pitching is garbage), but Theo has made his intentions very clear.

      • Noah

        Concur. I think the signings you’ll see are more along the lines of the David DeJesus and Paul Maholm signings last season: Veterans who have strong probabilities at being league average with contracts that pay them below the value they contribute, and who can be traded for higher ceiling talent in July.

        I love the idea of kicking the tires on Angel Pagan if you can sign him for a bargain. It would almost be hard to believe that a guy who has posted north of 4 fWAR in 2 of the last 3 years could slip through the cracks like that, but he’s the sort of do everything above well but nothing phenomenally sort of guy who fails to get noticed.

  • die hard

    platoon him with LaHair next 2 years….would be a lock for 40 HR/120 RBI from LF position each yr which is second to Braun and will be needed as his knees are shot..if Cubs want to maximize investment assuming nobody will take him this is second best option….also gives L/R PH option…given meager salary of LaHair actually averages out Soriano’s monster pay…if they do this Soriano is good for a 20-25 HR/75-80 RBI each yr and Lahair makes up difference

    • Stinky Pete

      You would be wasting the 459 PA, 24 HRs and .823 OPS Soriano had against RHP this year. You would be paying $18m for 159 PA v LHP. If Soriano was LH I could see some sense to it.

  • Seamhead

    Bruce Levine invokes the name of Indians’ 3B prospect Lonnie Chisenhall as a possible trade target.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Chisenhall has been a decent power, pretty good OBP guy in the minors. He won’t be 24 until November, but he’s not really clicked at the MLB level.

      I’m not sure what the Indians would expect for him. They’ve pretty clearly buried him for Jack Hannahan, who is one of the “consistent” (albeit mediocre) veterans that certain managers and fans love, but who generally waste roster spaces. However, with a new manager coming in this year and the Indians in need of a major rebuild (especially for pitching), they might decide to take a chance on Chisenhall and dump Mr. Consistent.