Alfonso Soriano’s days roaming the outfield at Wrigley Field are over. (Photo credit: David Banks/ Getty Images)
The Alfonso Soriano era is over for the Chicago Cubs. The 37-year-old outfielder is headed back to the New York Yankees, the club he began his major league career with in 1999. The Cubs will reportedly receive minor league pitcher Corey Black from the Yankees.
No other player represented the past seven seasons for the Cubs better than Soriano. The Cubs signed Soriano to an eight-year/$136 million contract before the 2007 season, a move that coincided with the hiring of manager Lou Piniella.
The next two seasons would be some of the most eventful in the team’s history. In Soriano’s first two seasons, the Cubs made back-to-back postseason appearances in 2007 and 2008. The 97 wins the Cubs earned in the 2008 season were the most since the 1945 pennant-winning team that made the franchise’s most recent World Series appearance.
Unfortunately, both of these playoff berths ended with sweeps in the NLDS at the hands of the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.
Despite the lack of postseason success, Soriano should be regarded as one of the greatest Cubs of his generation. His legacy as a Cub is by no means legendary like the careers of Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, or Ryne Sandberg but Soriano provided the Cubs with a consistently powerful bat. Soriano hit 181 homers as a Cub to place 11th on the team’s all-time home run list.
Soriano’s batting average sunk well below .300 in the past five seasons. With an average of .264 with Chicago, he never was the kind of player to hit for average. But his slugging percentage of .495 over his six-and-half seasons as a Cub puts him ninth among the Cubs all-time slugging leaders, ahead of even Santo and Sandberg.
The main reason for why Soriano garnered so many boos and mixed reactions from the Wrigley faithful over the years had to do with his defensive play. Soriano broke into the majors at second base but was moved to the outfield in 2006 with the Nationals and remained there for his tenure with the Cubs. Not a natural at the position, Soriano would make Cubs fans cringe every time he hopped before making a catch in left field. Yet, his fielding did improve, going from 11 errors committed in 2009 to only one last season.
Soriano’s departure means Jeff Samardzija is the only player left on the Cubs roster from the 2008 division championship team. There are no players remaining from the 2007 playoff team. One of the last remnants of those great teams has left Chicago.
The memories of those two memorable seasons now seem even further away as the organization goes through another rebuilding phase. The post-Tribune era has officially begun, as this team will now be made-up almost entirely of players acquired under the ownership of the Ricketts family, who bought the Cubs in 2009.
Cubs fans may have mixed feelings over his time in Chicago; that he underachieved considering the size of his contract. But his work effort was never lacking and his contributions to two division champions should not be overlooked.