Soriano sees Cubs' future without him


CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano is a leader for the Chicago Cubs and popular teammate among the 25-man roster. None of that can stop the changing of the guard.

Soriano is starting to do his usual damage when the weather warms up, getting the offense going in Monday’s 9-1 win over the Colorado Rockies with his fourth home run of the season, a majestic blast that headed down Kenmore Ave. But it is inevitable that the 37-year-old veteran’s position on the team will soon be filled by young players like Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija, who are rapidly ascending to their future roles as leaders.

While Soriano is happy for Rizzo, who received a seven-year, $41 million contract last week, a hint of sadness could be detected in Soriano, who realizes he won’t be a part of the future championship clubs the franchise is pursuing with mega-million deals thrown at its young stars.

“I would like to be a part of this group but I am a little old,” Soriano said. “I will try to have a good time playing with them now. I hope after I retire that they continue to work hard and get better.”

Soriano’s $136 million contract that Cubs executives Crane Kenney and John McDonough signed off on in 2006 will expire after the 2014 season. There is an excellent chance that a contending team will come calling for the veteran outfielder by this summer’s trading deadline.

Soriano turned down a deal to the San Francisco Giants last August after he had cleared waivers. This spring he said he wanted to stay in Chicago, but he also said for the first time that if the team wasn’t in the hunt for the playoffs, he may be more open to moving to a contender for the remainder of his contract.

“I am working hard to get my swing back and what is more important, the team is playing good,” Soriano said.

Soriano, who took Castro under his wing when Castro joined the Cubs in 2010, would advise all his newly-rich young teammates to keep working at their trade.

“I have seen a couple players get lazy when they got the money,” Soriano said. “I hope Rizzo and Castro do not lose their hunger. This is the first step. They can get more (money) than that if they play the game the right way. I hope they realize and see it.”