Will Soriano follow Zambrano out the door?

January, 5, 2012
1/05/12
11:25
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Cubs/BravesDale Zanine/US PresswireIf the Cubs continue to get younger and more athletic, Alfonso Soriano may be out.
Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have stated since they were hired that the team needed to become younger and more athletic if it is to move forward.

After trading Carlos Zambrano, the remaining piece of business that needs to be addressed is the future of Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs owe Soriano $54 million over the next three years.

The Cubs have talked to at least eight American League teams over the last six weeks about a trade for Soriano. At one point, it appeared the Los Angeles Angels had interest, but that quickly went away when the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal on Dec. 8.

There were two teams that needed a designated hitter desperately. Baltimore and Seattle are looking for someone to provide RBI punch. The skills of Soriano, who turns 36 on Saturday, have eroded, but his power numbers increased in 2011 with 26 home runs and 88 RBIs, which were second-highest on the team. It was Soriano's best RBI total since driving in 95 for the Washington Nationals in 2006, which was the year before he signed an eight-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs.

The good news for any team that trades for Soriano is it is getting a top-of-the-line individual who is well liked by teammates and organization personnel. Soriano gets credit for taking young star Starlin Castro under his wing and helping him adjust to life in the big leagues when he broke in as a 19-year-old.

"Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams did that for me when I was with the Yankees," Soriano said last season. "So I must continue to do that for young players like Castro. That's what baseball is about."

Much like the Zambrano trade, the Cubs would have to absorb a large portion on the $54 million remaining on Soriano's contract. Realistically, if a Baltimore or Seattle deal can be consummated, the Cubs would be lucky to save $15 million, or $5 million per year.

Epstein and Co. are trying not only to get younger and more athletic, but they're also looking for a culture change in the locker room. They have divested themselves of Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and Sean Marshall while adding a more youthful mix.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts will have to make the final decision on Soriano's fate. The money is already spent. In the case of Soriano, it's now a matter if you're better off with or without him.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 31
RBIA. Rizzo 73
RA. Rizzo 84
OPSA. Rizzo .898
WJ. Arrieta 9
ERAT. Wood 4.86
SOJ. Arrieta 157