Tag:Alfonso Soriano
Posted on: March 3, 2012 11:42 am
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Alfonso Soriano leading off is a possibility

By Matt Snyder

I thought this ship had sailed a few years ago.

Instead, multiple Chicago papers have stories up Saturday morning about Alfonso Soriano being a possibility to lead off for the Cubs this season on occasion.

I'd be lying if I said only one word came to mind, but one word was most prominent: Why?

You can say the Cubs don't have a bonafide leadoff man, and that's true. But there are many better options than Soriano. In fact, he might be the worst option on the entire club. We're talking about a guy who hit .244 with a .289 on-base percentage last season. He struck out 113 times while walking 27. He had two stolen bases. He only scored 50 runs in 508 plate appearances.

Amazingly, with a putrid OBP, Soriano still managed 88 RBI and a .469 slugging percentage, due to his 27 doubles and 26 homers.

Basically, Soriano's only value is that he gets an extra-base hit every once in a while, which helped him drive home those 88 runs last season. That's not a guy you bat leadoff. Ever.

Fortunately, manager Dale Sveum's comments seem to be of a political nature, as to not dismiss anything.

‘‘During the season, a lot of things can come up to where, yeah, it can happen,’’ said Sveum (Chicago Sun-Times). ‘‘You really want Soriano just to be in an RBI spot. That’s what you really want.’’

Unfortunately, Soriano batted leadoff in an intrasquad game Friday. So it appears the possibility is realistic.

I can hear the collective groan from Wrigleyville already.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 9:36 am
 

Cubs players say they trust Braun's collector

Jeff BakerBy C. Trent Rosecrans

During his press conference following his successful appeal of a 50-game suspension, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun tried to cast doubt on specimen collector Dino Laurenzi Jr. Laurenzi later released a statement defending himself, then Thursday, Braun's lawyer shot back.

Laurenzi, though, doesn't just collect samples from the Brewers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Laurenzi also collects samples from the Cubs. And while Braun has called Laurenzi's motives into doubt, several Cubs told the Sun-Times that they trust Laurenzi.

"Just from knowing Dino the three years I've been here, he's been nothing but professional," Cubs infielder Jeff Baker told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times. "He's been very, very thorough. I have no concerns and no qualms."

Alfonso Soriano also gave his thumbs up to Laurenzi.

"I'm not worried that it's the same guy," Soriano told the newspaper. "I'm not worried because I know what I take. It doesn't matter who takes the sample. If you don't take nothing, he can take [the specimen] home for a week, and nothing will come out."

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 9:36 am
 

Cubs players say they trust Braun's collector

Jeff BakerBy C. Trent Rosecrans

During his press conference following his successful appeal of a 50-game suspension, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun tried to cast doubt on specimen collector Dino Laurenzi Jr. Laurenzi later released a statement defending himself, then Thursday, Braun's lawyer shot back.

Laurenzi, though, doesn't just collect samples from the Brewers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Laurenzi also collects samples from the Cubs. And while Braun has called Laurenzi's motives into doubt, several Cubs told the Sun-Times that they trust Laurenzi.

"Just from knowing Dino the three years I've been here, he's been nothing but professional," Cubs infielder Jeff Baker told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times. "He's been very, very thorough. I have no concerns and no qualms."

Alfonso Soriano also gave his thumbs up to Laurenzi.

"I'm not worried that it's the same guy," Soriano told the newspaper. "I'm not worried because I know what I take. It doesn't matter who takes the sample. If you don't take nothing, he can take [the specimen] home for a week, and nothing will come out."

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:02 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:57 pm
 

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs



By Matt Snyder


After watching the Cubs go from a 97-win club to a 71-win version in just four seasons, owner Tom Ricketts took serious action in 2011. He fired general manager Jim Hendry and landed his version of a big fish, in former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Epstein took over as club president then added Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod as senior vice president of scouting and player development, among other front office pieces. The new management group then hired Dale Sveum as the big-league manager and started to clean house. It's going to be a long process, but said process has begun in earnest.

Scott Miller's camp report: Cubs Giddy With Optimism | Likes, Dislikes

Major additions: OF David DeJesus, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Ian Stewart, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Travis Wood
Major departures: RHP Carlos Zambrano, OF Tyler Colvin, RHP Andrew Cashner, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Carlos Pena, LHP Sean Marshall, LHP John Grabow

Probable lineup
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Bryan LaHair, 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Ian Stewart, 3B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Darwin Barney, 2B

Probable rotation
1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Paul Maholm
4. Randy Wells
5. Travis Wood

Chris Volstad will also be in the mix, but I gave Wood the nod because he's left-handed.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Carlos Marmol
Set-up: Kerry Wood, Jeff Samardzija

Important bench players

IF Jeff Baker, C Welington Castillo, OF Tony Campana, OF Reed Johnson

Prospects to watch
There are two here in particular that could make an impact in 2012: OF Brett Jackson and 1B Anthony Rizzo. It's entirely possible both are in the lineup come August. With Rizzo, it's a matter of whether or not LaHair can hit in the majors long-term -- as he could merely be one of those so-called Quadruple-A players. If that is the case and Rizzo is hitting well in Triple-A, the Cubs might well decide to turn to Rizzo. With Jackson, he's blocked all over the outfield, however, center field could easily be cleared in July. If the Cubs fall out of contention prior to the trade deadline -- and let's face it, that's a pretty good bet -- Byrd is a great trade candidate (sorry, I don't think the Cubs can deal Soriano just yet due to his contract). Byrd is in the final year of his contract and can play all three outfield positions, so surely some contender would cough up one mid-tier prospect for him. If that happens, the logical step for the Cubs would be to see how Jackson fared in center field for the final two months to determine if he can stay there or if he needs to be moved to a corner.

Fantasy sleeper: Bryan LaHair
"Usually, when a player in his late 20s puts up eye-popping numbers at Triple-A like a .331 batting average, 38 homers and 1.070 OPS, he's dismissed right away as a Quadruple-A player, but apparently the Cubs' front office thinks LaHair is different -- and not just because of his impressive 59 at-bat stint in the majors last year. The experiment could still be a failure of Kila Ka'aihue proportions, which is why you shouldn't bother with LaHair in mixed leagues, but late in NL-only formats, why not?" - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Carlos Marmol
"If blown saves were Marmol's only problem, it'd be one thing, but the bottom line is he's not the efficient out-getter that Epstein and Hoyer would like their closer to be. His walk rate is as bad as it gets, and as a result, he's always pitching out of jams. Sure, his high strikeout rate helps compensate for it, but if he produces anything short of a best-in-the-league-type hit rate, his WHIP is in the danger zone." - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
The deep pitching staff throws well and pays immediate dividends, as the bullpen improves with much better rest. Plus, behind the changes in right field and third base, the defense is also improved. Even Marmol's control issues drastically dwindle. LaHair and Stewart prove they can hit major-league pitching throughout the season and DeJesus turns out a perfect leadoff man for the suddenly balanced offense. And the Cubs find themselves right in the thick of the NL Central race with the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers until the end of the season, possibly even finishing somewhere in the top three.

Pessimistic outlook
By the end of July, Garza, Dempster and Byrd are all traded as the Cubs have no shot of making the playoffs. The Cubs try to avoid the cellar in a battle with the Astros, but continue the rebuilding effort and look forward to hitting the 2013 free agency class full-steam (less than $40 million is committed to 2013 payroll so far). Really, this is more realistic than pessimistic, because as much as the Cubs' coaches, players and front office say they're trying to win this year, it's obvious this is a two-year plan at the absolute minimum.

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 7:43 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 7:55 am
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part II: OF/DH



By Matt Snyder


As we continue our look at the most cumbersome contracts in baseball, today we'll look at outfielders and designated hitters. We covered the infield and catchers Wednesday and will look at pitchers Friday. As a reminder, we're looking at what is left on the contract, not what the player has been paid through the duration of the deal.

Left Field

Worst: Vernon Wells, Angels
Remaining contract: 3 years, $74 million

Man, this was a tough call because it's a crowded field (see below), but we'll go with Wells because the average annual value remaining on the contract is insane. He hit .218/.248/.412 last season and had a negative WAR, meaning a replacement-level player was better than a guy making over $25 million for the season. At age 33, he could certainly bounce back, but it's hard to see him all of a sudden becoming worth as much money as he's making.

Honorable Mention

Carl Crawford, Red Sox: There are six years and $128 million left on the deal, and I feel like many will argue that Crawford's remaining contract is worse than Wells'. I'm willing to give the 30-year-old Crawford a mulligan for his catastrophic first season in Boston. Next year at this time we'll know a lot more.

Alfonso Soriano, Cubs: Amazingly, he still has three years and $57 million left. Wow.

Jason Bay, Mets: In two seasons for the Mets, Bay has hit .251/.337/.386 (what an ugly slugging percentage for a supposed power hitter) with just 18 homers in 218 games. He still has two years and $36.25 million left, too, in addition to a $3 million buyout should the Mets not pick up his option year.

Center Field

Worst: Alex Rios, White Sox
Remaining Contract: 3 years, $38.5 million

While his teammate got much of the blame last year in terms of the White Sox's shortfall -- and you'll see him below -- Rios was pretty awful himself. He hit .227/.265/.348, which was good for a 65 OPS-plus (if you don't know what that is, trust me, it's embarrassingly bad). He actually posted a negative 1.5 WAR, meaning -- according to the stat -- that he single-handedly cost the White Sox a win and a half just by being in the lineup when he was. And now, thanks to that contract, he's untradeable.

Honorable Mention

Actually, I've got nothing here. Once one-time center fielders' contracts get too big they are usually shoved to the corners. The big-money guys here (Matt Kemp, Curtis Granderson, etc.) are fairly compensated.

Right Field

Worst: Jayson Werth, Nationals
Remaining contract: 6 years, $116 million

Very easy choice. I fully expect a bounce-back season from Werth this year, as several things didn't go his way last season. That being said, the Nationals are paying Werth like he's a superstar all the way until the season in which he turns 38. He wasn't even a superstar his last year in Philadelphia, when he was 31.

Honorable Mention

Nick Markakis, Orioles: There's a reason you only hear about other teams asking for Adam Jones in a trade and not Markakis. The latter is due $43.05 million over the next three seasons while he hit .284 with 15 homers and 73 RBI last season. You need more offense than that from a corner outfielder in order to pay him almost $15 million a year.

Designated Hitter

Worst: Adam Dunn, White Sox.
Remaining contract: 3 years, $44 million

Another easy one. Like Werth, I also expect Dunn to bounce back, but there's no way he can be good enough to earn his full contract over the next three years, especially considering how bad he was last season. He was historically awful with the bat -- there's really no need to rehash the gruesome details at this point -- and that's all he does. And if he does field, his value actually decreases because he's such a butcher with the glove.

Honorable Mention

Travis Hafner, Indians: Nitpicky here, but Pronk will make $13 million this season. He's only averaged 91 games per year the past four seasons. No one else really warrants mention, because Big Papi, for example, is still worth the big bucks.

On the Other Hand ...

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks: Thanks to an early Longoria-type extension, Upton is set to make $46.109 million over the next four seasons. He made just under $4.5 million last season, when he finished fourth in a crowded NL MVP field. Since Upton is only 24, the D-Backs will have to pony up again -- and probably in huge fashion -- to lock him up through his prime, but for now this is a very team-friendly contract.

Special Cases

Bobby Bonilla, Mets: This is both hilarious and sad at the same time. When the Mets bought out Bonilla's $5.9 million contract in 2000, they agreed to repay him with interest starting 11 years later. Beginning July 1, 2011, the Mets are paying Bonilla an annual salary of roughly $1.2 million until 2035. Or around $35 million in all. In 2012, the Mets will pay Bonilla more than the following regulars/rotation members: Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee.

Manny Ramirez, Dodgers: We'll ignore that the Red Sox are paying Manny B. Manny $2 million per year until he's 54 because he helped bring them two World Series titles. But the Dodgers are paying Ramirez $8.33 million in 2012 and 2013. Assuming Clayton Kershaw gets more in arbitration, that means Manny will be the Dodgers' sixth highest-paid player this season. Of course, Frank McCourt is still going to make a billion dollar profit, so ...


Part I: Infielders and catchers
Part III: Pitchers, coming Friday

Source for all figures was Cot's Baseball Contracts

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Posted on: January 10, 2012 7:20 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 7:25 pm
 

Quick hits: Madson, Wood, Cubs, more

By Matt Snyder

It's been one of those "slow news days," but there have been a handful of minor moves and reports, so let's just grab a bunch and get them out in the open here.

FREE AGENT TRACKER

• First of all, this is far from minor, but my esteemed colleague Jon Heyman already blogged on it. Go check out his post on Ryan Madson and the Reds' interest -- along with several other teams still in the mix.

• It once seemed like a foregone conclusion that Kerry Wood would finish his MLB playing career with the Cubs after returning "home" last season, but it's at least a possibility that isn't necessarily the case now. From multiple different reports (MLBTradeRumors.com has them), the Phillies and Reds are also in on the bidding for Wood's services with the Cubs. The Reds would be out of the bidding if they sign either Madson or Francisco Cordero. Wood could serve as closer for the Reds with Sean Marshall setting up, while Wood would be a setup man in Philly for Jonathan Papelbon. Brad Lidge would be the other setup option for the Phillies, should they not sign Wood.

It's interesting that the Cubs want Wood back. Any other veteran is being allowed to walk via free agency or traded -- or at least being rumored to be on the trading block. Instead, general manager Jed Hoyer told XM Radio Tuesday that the Cubs have offered Wood a substantial raise to stay put. He is a special case, with his strong ties to Chicago and to the Cubs' organization. Cubs president Theo Epstein recently said Wood has the type of personality the Cubs hope will spread in the locker room. Wood will reportedly make a decision by Friday.

The situation seems to be one of those that is a catch-22 for Cubs fans. On one hand, Wood stands a much better chance of winning a World Series ring if he leaves -- considering the massive rebuild the Cubs are undertaking. On the other, he's a favorite son to fans of the franchise. If he does walk, I'd suggest Cubs fans hope he gets a ring in the next year or two much like Mark Grace got one with the Diamondbacks. If he does stay, that shows how strongly he feels like a Cub.

• Speaking of the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano is likely to open the season as the starting left fielder, reports CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman. Not for lack of trying, of course, it's just that with $54 million left on Soriano's colossal contract, the Cubs can't seem to find any takers willing to take on a decent portion of the remaining salary.

• The Red Sox signed starting pitcher Aaron Cook to a minor-league contract earlier this week. With injury woes in the rotation, this is merely an organizational depth signing and nothing more. There's no way it would preclude the Red Sox from making a trade for a starter or adding someone else -- like Hiroki Kuroda, who the Red Sox have reportedly discussed.

• Backup catcher Koyie Hill has signed a minor-league deal with the Cardinals, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.

Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez has avoided arbitration, signing a one-year deal worth about $2 million, reports Morosi.

• Relief pitcher Aaron Heilman has signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners, the team announced.

As for Prince Fielder, I've got nothing for you (that was done in my best Jeff Probst voice). I guess Prince has to sign with someone eventually, right?

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Posted on: January 4, 2012 4:40 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 7:26 pm
 

Epstein talks Zambrano, salaries, Wood, more

By Matt Snyder

New Cubs president Theo Epstein hit the radio waves in Chicago Wednesday afternoon to discuss several different topics. Let's check out the main points, thanks to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.

• It's pretty easy to understand why many Cubs fans never want to see Carlos Zambrano again (and I'm on their side, by the way), but Epstein hasn't ruled out a Zambrano return. He explained why:

“The Carlos Zambrano of 2011 and years previous can’t fit into the culture that we have here,” Epstein said (MLB.com). “Change needs to happen and change will happen. Either he’ll change and buy in and fit into this culture — and I understand there are a lot of skeptics around about that. I understand that, and frankly, I’m skeptical as well. He needs to prove to us that he can change and be part of this culture or we’ll change the personnel and move forward with people who are proud to be Cubs and treat their teammates with respect, treat the fans with respect and can be part of a winning culture in the Cubs’ clubhouse.”

That's very reasonable. All the Zambrano issues came under Jim Hendry's watch, so Epstein has the right to give him one chance. Without having had any personal interaction with Zambrano before taking the job, Epstein may not feel comfortable just going on what he's read and seen on TV -- especially since it's not easy to unload a $19 million contract. And him making sure to point out that he's skeptical seems like a stern warning to Big Z. (UPDATE: The Cubs have a preliminary agreement in place to trade Zambrano to the Marlins)

• Speaking of albatross contracts, left fielder Alfonso Soriano is still owed $54 million over the next three seasons. Epstein didn't specifically name Soriano, but when asked about highly overpriced players, he said the club has three options:

1. Trade the player and eat a decent portion of the salary.
2. Cut the player.
3. Provide "an infrastructure in which he can improve," per MLB.com.

Cubs offseason
On Soriano, I'm not sure what the Cubs could do without having to eat a ton of money. You play him at first base to eliminate the defensive liability he poses in the outfield, and he's still a first baseman with a .289 on-base percentage who hits around 25 homers. Is that even close to being worth $18 million a year? No. I'd guess the best option is No. 1 and then No. 2 is soon to follow. Either way, that's a load of wasted money.

• As for the recent trade of fan favorite Sean Marshall?

“With what we’re trying to accomplish, which is not just win the World Series in 2012 but build something bigger and more sustainable for the long-term, what’s more valuable to us?” Epstein said (MLB.com). “One season worth of Sean Marshall or five seasons worth of a 25-year-old left-handed starting pitcher [Travis Wood] who can go into our starting rotation … and two prospects we like a lot.”

Well, first of all, he has to say that they are trying to win the 2012 World Series, but they really aren't. Just as I wrote last week, the Cubs aren't going to throw all their chips to the center of the table and try to win immediately just to end some fake curse. They are building a foundation for the future, one that Epstein and company are hoping will provide multiple opportunities for a championship down the road, not just one quick burst.

• He hit on one Wood, so what about the other: Kerry Wood?

“You have a team that really respects a player, wants him back desperately, and you have a player who loves the city, is a huge part of the community here with his family and his foundation and wants to be back,” Epstein said (MLB.com). “If we can’t work this out, we’re doing something wrong.”

• Also, not that it's shocking, but Epstein definitively stated that Bryan LaHair is going to be the Cubs' first baseman in 2012. Now, if he was planning on signing Prince Fielder, Epstein obviously wouldn't say so -- so it's possible the Cubs are still in the bidding. I'm inclined to believe him, though, because of the project nature of this rebuild. And LaHair could possibly be a late bloomer like a Jayson Werth (erase 2011 from your memory, haters, and look at 2008-10) or Ryan Ludwick. LaHair, 29, hit .331/.405/.664 with 38 homers and 38 doubles in 129 Triple-A games last season.

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Posted on: November 30, 2011 12:50 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 5:04 pm
 

Cubs sign OF David DeJesus to 2-year deal

David DeJesusBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Theo Epstein era in Chicago is starting with David DeJesus, as the team announced it signed the free-agent outfielder to a two-year deal worth $10 million with a team option for 2014. There is thought, though, this move could be a precursor to a bigger move, perhaps a trade of Alfonso Soriano.

DeJesus, who will be 32 in December, has played all three outfield spots, but is primarily a corner outfielder. He hit .240/.323/.376 with 10 home runs for the Athletics in 2011, but is a .284/.356/.421 career hitter. For now, DeJesus will be penciled in as the team's everyday right fielder.

The left-handed hitting DeJesus will benefit from moving from the spacious park in Oakland to the more hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. Last year was his only year in Oakland after spending the first eight years of his career in Kansas City.

As for a trade, the Cubs would love to get rid of Soriano, but nearly any deal would require them to eat much of Soriano's massive salary -- and it's one that would make Adam Richmond blush. The Cubs still owe Soriano $54 million through 2014. If they are able to get rid of him, that would open up a spot for Tyler Colvin or prospect Brett Jackson.

Keep up to date with free agent moves with the CBSSports.com free agent tracker. 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com