Let me get this out of the way, I’m not an Alfonso Soriano fan. Am I thrilled that he’s still a member of the Cubs? No, but like most loyal fans, I try to rationalize, and convince myself that things aren’t that bad.
Lets face it, at this point in his career, Soriano isn’t bringing much to the table, besides terrible fielding and spitting excessive amounts of sunflower seeds. After dealing with him for the last five seasons, I’ve finally made peace with the whole situation. The Cubs (Jim Hendry), paid this guy way too much money, and he just flat out hasn’t lived up to expectations. I’m over it. With a new era beginning in Chicago, I thought of a few positive things about Soriano still being in a Cubs uniform:
(1) The Cubs need power. I don’t count on Alfonso Soriano for anything, but realistically I think he can hit 25 home runs and drive in 75. With Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena leaving town, the Cubs desperately need power in their lineup. Soriano is a home run or nothing guy. Every team needs someone to fill that role, and Alfonso will be that guy for the Cubs.
(2) If he doesn’t perform, he won’t play. New manager Dale Sveum wants the team to have a renewed focus on fundamentals. If Soriano continues his current defensive trends in 2012, he will be on the bench. There is no way sub-par defense will be tolerated. I’m hoping a new coach and atmosphere will energize Soriano, and make him want to play harder.
(3) Soriano will only play 7 innings a game. Tony Campana figures to get a lot of time in left field this season, especially late in games. He’s everything on defense that Soriano is not, and a guy that wants to be out there. If Soriano is underperforming, it will just equal more playing time for Campana, something I think that will benefit the Cubs in the long run.
(4) This is probably his last year in Chicago. Soriano may not even make it through the season, depending on whether the Cubs are buyers or sellers this summer. Clearly he’s destined to be a DH in the American League at some point in the near future. If an AL contender needs power, they will come calling, hopefully taking a chunk of the contract with them. Depending on how he’s performing, trading Soriano could get the Cubs a decent prospect in return. When you see him slowly jogging towards a ball in the corner this summer, just remember, it’s the last year.
Bottom Line: Soriano is what he is, an over-paid, underperformer. I’m hoping that the new era and renewed commitment to playing baseball the right way, will light a fire under Soriano. It’s a stretch, but if anything is going to do it, this would be it. He’s already got his big pay day, and he owes the Cubs’ fans at least one more season, of everything he’s got left. After all, it’s probably his last season playing in the field. All I’m asking, is for him to act like he wants to be there, play hard, and hopefully hit a few dingers in the process.
Follow Andrew Fisher on Twitter @the_realfish