As Sir Soriano gets introduced to the masses today, and we finally have the contract details laid out
, itís time to put this monstrosity into itís proper perspective. Letís just say, Iím a bit torn by the whole ordeal.
It doesnít take graphs and charts
or any sort of fancy analysis
to figure out that the Cubs just paid far too much money for far too many years to finally get Alfonso Soriano
into a Cubs uniform. If you look back at his career there are plenty of reasons to not like the signing, whether it be the Sosa-like strikeouts, the low on-base percentage and walk totals, the age, the length of contract, the money, the career year in a walk season, or the foreboding PECOTA
forecast. I mean there isnít one good reason to believe that this is a smart baseball move. A matter of fact, itís the type of deal that can cripple a non-New York franchise by itís vice-like grip on the payroll. And even if you like Soriano the player and what he brings to the game (great power, good speed), you got to be a little ticked the Cubs brass didnít have this epiphany for paying top prices for top talent two years ago, when the far superior Carlos Beltran
was on the market.
While Hendry hasnít quite gathered all the pieces to put the final 2007 Cubs puzzle together, itís being rumored that Soriano is targeted for a corner outfield spot, which even further diminishes his value. His career numbers suggest just a slightly above average corner outfielder (at best), but if he could play a passable center field, even at his career averages heíd certainly be a huge plus at that position.
You also have to wonder exactly how this will help the Cubs. The Cubs have been doing just fine in the power department the last few seasons (ranked 9th, 2nd, 1st over the last three years and would have easily moved up from 9th to about 4th last year had Derrek Lee
been healthy). The obvious flaw on the offensive side of the ball has been the paltry walk totals and low OBP (16th, 11th and 11th counting backwards over the last 3 seasons), making far too many of those home runs of the solo variety. Of course what is one of Sorianoís biggest weaknesses (2006 aside), low OBP numbers. I'd say there's a bit of a flaw in the Cubs logic there.
Keeping with the analytic take on all this, there are some nuggets of hope to hang onto. His numbers last year, half of which were accumulated in the cavernous RFK stadium were beyond incredible and the NL East in general (beyond homer happy Citizens Bank) is rather friendly to the pitchers of the game. Just from the three game set we played against them last year, there were at least two, maybe three warning track shots by Soriano that would have easily landed a few rows up in Wrigley, but settled rather harmlessly into the glove of a waiting Cubs outfielder. I imagine that happened quite a bit more often over the course of the season when the Cubs weren't present.
Even when you throw out his increase in intentional walks last season, his walk rate increased
to a level that if sustained would forgive a lot of those rally-killing Kís heís bound to accrue. If youíve got the Cubbie Kool-Aid on an IV drip, you may even be so bold as to compare him to another free-swinging corner outfielder with a penchant for the swing and the miss.
|Age||Soriano AB/HR||Sosa AB/HR||Soriano BB/PA||Sosa BB/PA |
|25||31.9 ||18.1||0.047||0.059 |
|26 ||17.8||17.0 ||0.031 ||0.055|
What do all those numbers mean? Well not a whole lot to be honest, other than Sosa was a better player even before any of those nasty chemical-enhanced allegations start getting thrown around. If thereís anything to get excited about, itís those last two years where each of their walk rates increased substantially along with a nice jump in their home run rates. Iím certainly not imagining any runs at sixty homers by Soriano, but if he can sustain his walk rate from last year, he may buck the age trends of most major leaguers and evolve into the player almost worth the fortune the Cubs will pay him over the next eight years.
ñ FUCK YEAH!!!
I really donít give a damn about the warts on his game, or the money we paid or how he's not going to help solve our pitching woes. Soriano is a superstar, the best hitter on the open market (not including a certain 3B who ended up signing with us anyway) and we got him. This has been the type of signing weíve been begging for from Tribco for the last 20+ years and as the old saying goes, ìbetter late than neverî. The dude is going to be fun to watch over the next eight years and letís face it, one World Series title somewhere in those eight years and no one is going to give a ratís ass about what heís getting paid in any of those other seven years.
So ultimately where do I stand? (I know you all wait breathlessly)Ö
I think the Cubs made the right move, even if it wasnít the smartest move. While McDonough spouts off about winning the World Series, the cynic in me thinks the Cubs were more interested in acquiring a player that puts butts in the seats and keeps the Cubs on the forefront of the Chicago baseball landscape. And although I donít see anyway that in five or six years, we wonít be wondering how to pawn Soriano off to another team, right now heís the big bat the Cubs needed and more importantly the big money ticket that at least superficially demonstrates the Cubs desire to win. Heís also just damn fun to watch. The homers go far and despite their ever-growing irrelevance to the game, stolen bases are a guilty pleasure of mine. And hell, Iíd rather have the speed or at least the threat of it, then not have it.
There will be more on Soriano as the offseason goes on, for heís quite the fantastic study. How does he rank among the all-time power/speed hitters of the game? How much is him batting leadoff going to hurt the teamís run production, if at all? Where the hell should he play defense? Why have his best seasons come in parks that arenít very friendly to right-handed hitters? But for now, letís enjoy the Cubs finally acting like the big market team they should have been all this time.