Going into the Winter Meetings last week, you’ll recall reports that the Cubs were going to meet with teams about left fielder Alfonso Soriano. Coming off a big season at the plate and in the field, the 36-year-old Soriano had new-found trade value, and the Cubs, steeped in a rebuild, could be looking to cash in on that value.
The team mentioned specifically in those reports was the Philadelphia Phillies, who are known to be looking for a right-handed power bat to insert in the middle of their lineup. Perfect fit for Soriano, right?
Well, according to Jon Heyman, the two sides did discuss a specific deal, which would have sent Soriano and a load of cash to the Phillies for former top prospect Domonic Brown. The 25-year-old outfielder hasn’t had the breakout success in Philly that was long expected of him – he sports a .236/.315/.388 career line over 492 plate appearances – but he was the number 4 prospect in all of baseball to Baseball America before the 2011 season. His talent is unquestionable. Whether it will translate in the bigs remains a bit question. His numbers have been huge in the minors, until the last two partial seasons at AAA. Most believe he’s a corner outfielder at this point, although he played all over the outfield in the minors.
Heyman adds that Philly really likes Soriano’s bat, but still questions his defense. They may prefer to go the free agent route, Heyman says, possibly with Cody Ross. The Cubs, according to Heyman, are willing to eat all but $10 million of Soriano’s deal to up the return in prospects.
Soriano on a two year, $10 million deal looks like a steal in this market, and, indeed, the Cubs should demand a quality return if that’s the offer they’re putting on the table. Would Brown, alone, be enough, considering his slightly-stalled-out status? He’s a high upside flyer – perhaps higher upside than any other player the Cubs could reasonably acquire – but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the hangup involved the Cubs asking for more, as unreasonable as that might sound.
Don’t take it for more than my own sense of these things, but this report feels like the kind that is leaked by one side to try and put pressure on a free agent like Ross to sign a deal – or to put pressure on the Cubs to lower their asking price on Soriano. That is to say, it feels like it’s coming from the Phillies, who may be frustrated at their inability to consummate a deal with the Cubs or with Ross.
In other words, a deal involving Soriano and Philly might still happen. But it might not be the Phillies’ preferred route.
As always, Soriano’s no-trade rights are a hurdle, but Philly falls into the general category of team Soriano has said he’d be willing to accept a trade to – East Coast and very competitive.
UPDATE: From Jayson Stark, who presumably spoke to a Phillies official who wanted to get the message just right: Phillies were initially uninterested when Cubs approached them on Soriano. Now kicking it around but a long shot to actually happen.” That’s pure Philly spin, but it also sounds like it is probably accurate. Distill it for what it says: the Phillies are interested, but a deal is unlikely. That’s what the whole thing sounds like to me. Most trades are unlikely.