Alfonso Soriano received a day off yesterday, in part to clear his head and think about the next step for him. The 37-year-old outfielder has met with Cubs management, and is in the process of formally informing the club of the teams to which he would be willing to approve a trade. Having such a list would help the Cubs negotiate deals involving Soriano on a going-forward basis, although many believe a deal to the Yankees is inevitable.
President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein spoke to the media about the situation last night, and he was, as usual, strikingly candid.
“There was really no talk of a list,” Epstein said, per CSN. “We just kind of outlined the different options for Sori. He asked for two or three days to think things over. [He’ll] let us know where he’ll go – if anywhere – and then at that point it’s up to us if we want to go forward with finalizing a deal …. We told him how much we respect him and appreciate everything he’s done here, and that sometimes there’s a natural time to move on to clear opportunities for younger players [and] get him into a pennant race.”
From there, Epstein went on to reiterate that he’d told Soriano that this might be the right time to move on, particularly in light of Junior Lake’s emergence and other players soon returning to the outfield, including Ryan Sweeney and Brian Bogusevic. You can read more of Epstein’s and Soriano’s thoughts in CSN’s account, Bruce Levine’s account, Carrie Muskat’s account, as well as the Tribune’s account.
If I’m reading Epstein’s words correctly, and inferring no more than reasonable, it sounds like the organization has bluntly explained to Soriano that they’d like to start getting longer-term looks at younger guys, and that if he wants a chance to win in the next year and a half, he would be advised to accept a trade now. Although that may sound harsh, I tend to believe that the front office really is thinking of Soriano in the process, even if the organization’s needs are the priority. This may well be Soriano’s last chance at a playoff run, and all sides would probably like to see him get that chance, if the Cubs can send him somewhere he is comfortable. Even Soriano suggested he would like another playoff shot, and it doesn’t look like that will happen with the Cubs.
It feels like – based on nothing more than how this situation has developed, and the rumors that have emerged – Soriano will be headed to the Yankees soon. It’s possible that the market for Soriano is not as robust as we might like, and it’s also possible that Soriano is willing to go to fewer teams than we might like. In that situation, and assuming the Cubs do believe they have an organizational interest in moving on and seeing other players this and next year, the return in a Soriano deal might not be all that exciting. I do think the Cubs should hold the Yankees’ financial feet to the fire on this one if the luxury tax benefit is legit, but I would understand if the Cubs get little more than a little bit of a salary relief and a decent relief prospect. That would make me wonder, however, what the plan is for 2014, given that Soriano remains relatively productive, and a great veteran presence in the clubhouse.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, as there isn’t even yet a deal to report and dissect. For now, all we know is that discussions are ongoing with the Yankees and perhaps other teams, and the Cubs seem to be nudging Soriano in the direction of a trade (for their own benefit, and for his).