Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/9/14
Chicago_cubs_soriano_4e13
The hurdles remain, but the enthusiasm is there: The Cubs will be listening to offers on Alfonso Soriano at these winter meetings. The veteran will have to approve any trade, and has blocked moves to the San Francisco Giants in the past because of the cold weather and the West Coast location, so that’s no small obstacle. There’s also the matter of the $36 million left on his contract — Chicago will certainly have to swallow some of that in order to get a palatable return in a trade. How much they swallow will mostly depend on the receiving team’s opinion of Soriano’s defense. Soriano’s bat enjoyed a resurgence last season, too, but it wasn’t of the same magnitude as his defensive improvement. Outside of 2009, he’s actually been fairly steady with the Cubs. Discounting that season, where his offense was 17% worse than the league average, he’s been 14% better than league average, with a high of 22% and a low of 1%. Last year, that number was 16%. He’s rarely managed a passable walk rate, his strikeout rate is getting worse, his speed on the basepaths has dwindled, but his power remains. His isolated slugging percentage last year (.237) hit his career number on the head (.232), and given his last three years, it’s reasonable to once again pencil him in for a .200+ ISO. That power alone, along with good health (Soriano has crossed the 500 PA threshhold every season with the Cubs) and scratch defense, should get the player to within a few runs of average production. Given his age (37 years old), the aging curve might be steep. A two-win season in 2013 is reasonable given all these caveats, but asking for much more than a win in 2014 might not be. If you’re comfortable penciling Soriano in for three wins over the next two seasons, then you’d basically want the Cubs to swallow significantly more than half of the remaining contract. More than $20 million if they want a decent prospect. Paying $16 million for two years might make Soriano a slightly-more expensive alternative to Ryan Ludwick. Soriano just finished a four-win season! Do we really need to be so pessimistic about his next two seasons? Maybe. Last year was the first time in four years that Soriano offered positive value on defense. He managed what turned out to be almost a full-win swing between 2011 and 2012. Look at any of his defensive metrics, and even if there’s some disagreement about his full value, there’s agreement that he improved his range last season. At his age, any skepticism about a one-year change in a defensive stat is healthy skepticism. But there are some mitigating factors in this particular situation. One is almost incomprehensible. From Bradley Woodrum’s Hardball Times Annual case study on Soriano comes the revelation that the player had never been coached on outfield defense before this year. Woodrum found the surprising quote: “Soriano admitted that this year was the first time he’s ever gotten instruction on how to play the outfield. First base coach Dave McKay routinely coaches all the outfielders on how to play defense. … Soriano said that the only “coaching” he got at that time and prior to this season was shagging fly balls during batting practice.” — Sahadev Sharma, ESPN Chicago Makes you wonder about some teams. If there was a player that needed outfield coaching, ever, it was Soriano making the contentious move off of second base all those years ago. That might not be the entire picture though. There’s some evidence that positioning played a part in Soriano’s new range numbers. From BIS, we learn that Soriano was a combined -35 Plus/Minus for deep balls in 2011. He moved that number to +1 in 2012. He went from +3 to -3 on shallow balls and -1 to -4 on medium balls, so he did make some trade offs. But obviously it was worth it overall. Soriano also experienced an uptick on the basepaths. His speed score was back up to 3.4 from a career floor of 2.4 in 2011. BIS had him moving from -19 to -5 in Baserunning Gain, and our own baserunning stats support a modest improvement. Then again, it’s hard to depend on a player of his age retaining a late-career improvement in a part of the game so dependent on athleticism. Let’s give him a positive defensive number and a chance at three wins in 2013. That would give him at least four wins over the life of the contract, and require the Cubs to swallow between ten to fifteen of the millions of dollars remaining on his contract. That would make Soriano a cheaper alternative to Torii Hunter, who just signed a two-year, $26 million contract. His arm is still an asset, or scratch. Even with declining wheels, he’s not yet molasses on the basepaths. His plate discipline was never an asset. His bat has legs and he knows how to use em. Acquiring him now will have none of the sexiness of the mega-deal that brought him to Chicago, but it may still bring outfield help to a team like the Braves or Rays — warm, East Coast teams in need of some thump — and somewhere between ten and twenty million dollars of salary relief to the Cubs.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Metta World Peace expresses interest to coach St John's

Knicks want Marc Gasol, do they know what they’re asking for?

New York Rangers are the first team to clinch a playoff spot

Victorino: I plan on playing every day for Red Sox in 2015

The Rams are still planning on drafting a quarterback

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Howard willing to make 'ultimate sacrifice' to help Rockets

Pacquiao bought P. Diddy’s house for $12.5M, fight tickets

The Seahawks are already winning the NFL Draft

Fiancée takes stand at Aaron Hernandez's murder trial

Thunder announce Kevin Durant to miss rest of season

Jeremy Maclin says he still believes in Chip Kelly

WATCH: 2 Chainz beats Dominique Wilkins in HORSE

Angels remove Josh Hamilton banner from front of stadium

Elite Eight preview: Arizona vs. Wisconsin

Support for relocation growing among NFL powers

Mother says special needs son forced to remove varsity letter

NFL owners chose cost over game integrity

Minnesota Timberwolves: Should they tank?

Be careful how loudly you cheer on Mo'ne Davis' olive branch

Twins to offer $19 Bloody Mary with pizza slice garnish

Ranking the NBA's hottest coaching seats

The beginning of the end for Notre Dame

An identity in flux: Harden and the collective consciousness

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: 2 Chainz beats Nique in HORSE

Elite Eight preview and predictions: Notre Dame vs. Kentucky

Elite Eight preview and predictions: Arizona vs. Wisconsin

NFL owners chose cost over game integrity

Be careful how loudly you cheer on Mo'ne Davis' olive branch

James Harden and the collective consciousness

Hottest coaching seats in NBA

Under-the-radar NL MVP candidates

Notre Dame’s coach makes first Elite Eight

The last Expo standing

Five under-the-radar AL MVP candidates

Michigan sent recruit's GF a letter

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.