NASHVILLE -- Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein was talking to the Chicago media about Alfonso Soriano on Monday, but he could have just as easily been speaking to the other 29 general managers in baseball.
"Sori not only had a huge year offensively but he was a much improved player defensively," Epstein said at the winter meetings. "For those of us that were new here he really won us over right away with his work ethic and preparation."
Soriano, who will be 37 in January, is due $37 million in the final two years of his contract after hitting 32 home runs and driving in a career-high 108 runs in 2012. But it's widely known the Cubs wouldn't mind moving him despite those lofty compliments by Epstein.
"I had different expectations coming from the outside," Epstein said. "Looking back on it, I don't even know why. He was an excellent clubhouse presence for us. We value his contribution, at the same time we had dialogue with him throughout the course of the season, sometimes it makes sense to listen. He has no-trade rights.
"We'll keep him informed if there's a right fit for the Cubs where we can get better over the long haul. And the right fit for Soriano where it's a place that he wants to go and a place where he feels he might have an even better chance to win the World Series. Maybe it will make sense to pursue."
Soriano had that chance just last season, turning down a deal to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants. It's not clear what team to which he would approve a trade, but he has expressed a reluctance to move to the West Coast.
Since the Cubs will have to pick up at least half of the remaining money Soriano is due, it's still a complicated negotiation. It could come as late as the end of winter or even mid-season -- if Soriano plays like he did last year.
"We've been open with him about the fact that we'll listen and if there something right for everyone, we'll come to you," Epstein said.