Chicago Cubs: Alfonso Soriano

Soriano met with some applause, no boos

May, 20, 2014
May 20
8:31
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Former Chicago Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano said he wouldn’t mind the boos if they came. But he didn’t have to worry about it in his first at-bat during his return to Wrigley Field as a New York Yankee on Tuesday night.

Soriano was given moderate applause when he stepped to the plate to lead off the second inning. There were no audible boos, just some polite clapping and a few cheers. Nothing over the top.

“[Being booed] never bothered me,” Soriano said. “That made [me] a better person [and] to work hard and get better.”

Soriano played 6½ years in Chicago before being traded to the Yankees last July. He had a complicated relationship with fans, some of whom thought he should have played better -- especially in two postseasons -- after signing an eight-year, $136 million contract before the 2007 season.

“When I played here they focused on the contract, not the player,” Soriano said. “I just played every day with pain in my knee and tried to make the team better. They didn’t see that; they saw the contract.”

Soriano’s reputation improved over the years as he performed well while the team around him got worse. Eventually he became a mentor to other players and even improved in the outfield -- the position for which he often was maligned.

“When the team is doing bad and you're the face of the team, for any reason they start booing,” Soriano said. “I wish they can win soon. [The fans] need it.”

Soriano was hitting .248 with six home runs and 17 RBIs for the Yankees coming into Tuesday night’s game. He wants to play for two more years but only if it’s in a winning situation.

The promise of winning was the same reason he signed with the Cubs in November 2006 along with established manager Lou Piniella.

“That’s what I signed for,” Soriano said. “To win here.”

Before Tuesday’s game, Soriano was resigned to whatever crowd reaction was to be directed at him. Either way, he was all right. It’s the same attitude he has in coming to the ballpark every day.

“If they boo me, it’s another day,” he said. “They booed me a lot before. I’m happy. I like to play the game no matter what happens. If they boo me, that’s fine; if not, that’s fine, too.”

Soriano happy to be playing for the present

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
3:53
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


NEW YORK -- Although it took some maneuvering at the time, former Chicago Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano agreed to a trade to the New York Yankees in part because the Cubs were rebuilding. He saw the writing on the wall and decided, at 38 years old that a move was the right thing to do.

"At my age I want to win," he said before playing the Cubs in a doubleheader on Wednesday. "I don't want to be part of the future, I want to be part of the present. It's a little weird. I played with those guys, now against those guys. It's a little weird."

What feels good to him now is being with a "win-now" organization. He understands what the Cubs are trying to do, but it was still frustrating.

"Chicago is for the future," Soriano said. "At my age I just want to be thinking about the present ... They may want to build for the future, but we have to play in the present."

That's why the Cubs tried to deal him in 2012, but he wasn't interested in a trade to the San Francisco Giants, who went on to win the World Series. That's something the Cubs weren't able to do in 2007 and 2008 when they went to the playoffs with Soriano leading the way. But he struggled in the postseason and so did the Cubs, getting swept both years.

"The first couple of years was fun," he said. "But after that I don't know what happened. The fans in the city they need a world championship. People don't realize how big they can be if they win in Chicago. From front office to owner to player. They don't know how big they can be."

He says he used to preach that to the younger Cubs.

"Let's give a little bit more everyday to get better to try and win because if we win here we can be a God in the city," Soriano said. "That's what I said to the guys but that's not what happened."

So Soriano will play out the final year of his eight-year, $136 million contract with the team he started with. Then he's not sure what will happen to him but just like in Chicago he isn't focused on the future.

"At the Yankees it's all about the present," he said. "It's about going to the World Series that year."

Podcast: Alfonso Soriano on facing Cubs

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
10:45
AM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
Former Chicago Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano talks about facing his old team and what it would be like if the Cubs ever won the World Series.

Play Download

Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.

The case against Cubs signing Ellsbury

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
2:17
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Jacoby Ellsbury AP Photo/Steven SenneThe 30-year-old Jacoby Ellsbury has struggled to stay healthy in two of the past four seasons.
The shocking mega-trade of Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler is a good example why the Chicago Cubs should not sign free-agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term deal.

Fielder is one of the best left-handed hitters in the game, signing a nine-year, $214 million deal with Detroit in January 2012. He hit 30 home runs with 108 RBIs and a .412 on-base percentage in his first season in Detroit. As one of the few slugging free agents who actually panned out, he became the poster child for fans wanting their team to spend in the same fashion.

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But as is so often the case, a decline can come quickly. Last season Fielder "only" hit 25 home runs while driving in 106, but with an on-base percentage of .362. There's nothing wrong with those numbers, unless it's the start of that decline. The Tigers got ahead of Fielder's inevitable decline, even though he surely has some productive years left in him. And this all happened before Fielder turns 30 next May. While the Tigers are taking back a 31-year-old Kinsler in the trade, the financial risk with the second baseman, who is owed $62 million over the next four seasons, is not nearly as great.

Fast-forward to Ellsbury. The Cubs have given no indication that they will try to land one of the big-ticket free agents such as Ellsbury or Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo this offseason. But if they did, the Cubs wouldn't have to spend Fielder's $214 million price tag on Ellsbury. But let's assume it would take a minimum five-year deal worth $100 million to land the center fielder. He's already turned 30, so how and when will his decline come?

Last year he stole 52 bases while getting on base 35.5 percent of the time. That's his game. His WAR (Wins above replacement) was off the charts at 5.8. But was that a peak? It was a free-agent year, and he played for a championship team. It's easier to predict a decline in the coming years than an uptick in production.

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2013 Cubs season review: Outfield

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
12:51
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Jesse Rogers recaps the Cubs by position and looks at what changes might be in store for 2014.

Junior LakeBrian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesJunior Lake showed enough in his debut to be penciled in as a starter next season.
The Cubs outfield is a work in progress as two of the starters on opening day 2013 were traded before season’s end. But their replacements, Junior Lake and the combination of Ryan Sweeney and Brian Bogusevic, provided some intrigue in the final months of the year. Nate Schierholtz was a scouting success as the Cubs found the perfect left-handed gap hitter for Wrigley Field -- at least at their price point. Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus did their jobs well enough that other teams sought them out and the Cubs were able to cash in via trade by saving money.

The good: Soriano was finally tradeable, thanks to a hot finish to the first half of the season. As usual, when the weather warmed up so did Soriano -- and he stole a few bases along the way to prove his health. DeJesus was the Cubs' best at battling the opposing pitcher and drawing a walk, or at least a decent at-bat. By leaving, they opened the door for Lake who showed all the tools of being a good player and an unselfishness any manager would admire. His ability to hit the ball out of the park and then lay down a bunt, while still learning to play in the outfield, gives hope for his future. Schierholtz hit 21 home runs in his first year as a near full-time starter while Bogusevic remains an intriguing player since converting from pitcher. His ceiling might be higher than that of the better-known Sweeney.

The bad: Soriano’s start helped doom the Cubs offense as it has in the past. He hit .263 with one home run and two RBIs in April. DeJesus slowed down after an injury, forcing the Cubs into a salary dump instead of getting something back in a trade, while Schierholtz also finished the season quietly, hitting .177 in September with just one home run. Lake made some defensive mistakes in left field but was better when he played center.

Who’s next?: Lake seems entrenched for now but Jorge Soler and Albert Almora are seemingly the next two major names that could make their way to Wrigley Field. That won’t be next year, however. There’s always a chance former No. 1 draft pick Brett Jackson rebounds from some tough times, but unless Kris Bryant makes the move to the outfield full time, Almora and Soler have jobs waiting for them when they’re ready.

2014 outlook: Since some of the Cubs prospects won’t be ready in 2014 expect another transition year in the outfield with Lake becoming a mainstay if he can handle the everyday grind of a major league season. Lake showed more than enough to win a job out of spring training in left or center field. Schierholtz is unsigned, but Cubs property, so expect him back in right. Sweeney or Schierholtz could return as a backup but the Cubs might hit the free-agent market for a middle-of-the-road starter. A return of DeJesus via free agency isn’t out of the question, simply because he’s the type of hitter the Cubs like having around younger players. Lake is the key, though. Is he destined for a long career at Wrigley Field and how good can he be?

Soriano returns, still connected to ex-mates

August, 5, 2013
8/05/13
9:21
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Alfonso Soriano Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAlfonso Soriano still stays in touch with his former Cubs teammates.
CHICAGO -- Barely a week since he was traded away from the Chicago Cubs, new New York Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano is finding it hard to sever ties.

On his way to U.S. Cellular Field on Monday, Soriano said he was on the phone with Cubs catcher Welington Castillo, and has been keeping up to date with the daily ins-and-outs with his former team.

Case in point, Soriano was made aware of the loud cheer that went up in the Cubs' clubhouse on July 28 when Soriano hit a home run in a Yankees uniform against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Everybody was happy on the (Cubs) team," Soriano said nonchalantly.

Indeed he is missed, especially by the team's contingent of Latin players such as Castillo, Starlin Castro and even newcomer Junior Lake.

"It's part of the game," Soriano said. "Sometimes you have to move and do the best for me and for my family. I tried to do the best for this team in Chicago and the city but it didn't work so I’m wearing a new uniform and with a new team."

(Read full post)

Plan giving Cubs time to put pieces in place

August, 5, 2013
8/05/13
3:36
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Junior LakeRon Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsJunior Lake has surprised in his short time on the major league roster and could be the Opening Day leftfielder in 2014.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' first off day since the All-Star break gives us a chance to catch up on the state of the organization. The Cubs had a decent start to the second half, but like last year, the moves they've made are starting to catch up with them.

Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva, despite Sunday's effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers, haven't been nearly as effective lately as Matt Garza and Scott Feldman were before they were moved. Although Junior Lake has been on a tear again, the loss of Alfonso Soriano has been felt.

Of course, the overall product on the field -- and the wins and losses that come with it -- are still meaningless right now. It's about individual advancement and the acquisition of talent.

The Cubs may have done even better this July in trades than last, "jumping the market" as team president Theo Epstein said recently by making deals well ahead of the July 31 deadline. It's worth repeating the Cubs' front office has a unique opportunity with no immediate pressure from their fan base or ownership. That has allowed them to do things like make early trades instead of dealing with the pressure of deadline day. General manager Jed Hoyer said as much last week.

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Cubs stay quiet at trade deadline

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
3:24
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- The major league trading deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon without the Chicago Cubs making any further deals after making several trades earlier in the month, including dealing pitchers Matt Garza and Scott Feldman along with outfielder Alfonso Soriano.

"The last couple of days we had a lot of irons in the fire but never got that close," general manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday after the deadline.

Sources confirm outfielders Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus along with pitchers Kevin Gregg and James Russell all had interest from other teams. Catcher Dioner Navarro was rumored to possibly be heading to the St. Louis Cardinals after an injury to Yadier Molina sent them into a buyer's mode.

"Yadier and I have the same agent so he called me up and said there are some rumors that I'm going to St. Louis because of Yadier's health," Navarro said.

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Successful trip brings Cubs closer together

July, 28, 2013
7/28/13
8:18
PM CT
By Kevin Lynch
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chicago Cubs have a chance to finish the season with a winning road record. Their 6-4 trip against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants put them at 26-29 on the year.

"I can't remember ... having this kind of trip to the West Coast," Sveum said after his team's 2-1 win Sunday. "Winning six out of 10 on the West Coast is one of the hardest things to do in baseball."

The Cubs swept a series in San Francisco for the first time since September of 1993.

Overall, the trip also featured a few trades, including a deal to send team leader Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees. It seemed with every trade, the Cubs got better.

"We know we can do it with the young guys we have," catcher Welington Castillo said. "Everybody is doing their part."

Pitcher Travis Wood, who reclaimed his ace-of-the-staff mantel by giving up only one unearned in seven innings Sunday, says he believes trades make teams come together.

"I feel trades always make teams closer, everyone kind of pulls things together," Wood said.

Winning three consecutive close, low-scoring games can also galvanize a team filled with young players.

"Being part of something, continuing to win up to the winter time -- a lot of these guys get a feeling for that in the big leagues," Sveum said. "Get that feeling that every out and every pitch meant something. These guys multiply by 10 in a pennant race."

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Cubs still noting Soriano's absence

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
9:28
PM CT
By Kevin Lynch
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive
SAN FRANCISCO – As Chicago Cubs outfielder Cole Gillespie was talking to a reporter about the departure of Alfonso Soriano, Soriano's image popped up on a wide-screen television in the visiting dugout at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Half the players in the clubhouse collected around the television to watch Soriano, freshly traded to the New York Yankees, taking his cuts against Tampa Bay in pin stripes.

After Soriano flew out, players dispersed to get ready for their game against the Giants. However, Soriano leaves a huge hole, as one might expect, in the Cubs' clubhouse, the lineup and the outfield.

"A guy like him, it's not just his on-field ability, it's the way he controls the clubhouse," Gillespie said. "Players look up to him, especially the younger Latin players. That's a big influence. … He has accomplished so much in the game, but he's a good person too."

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Cubs still buying young

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
8:37
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein doesn't see the trade of Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees on Friday as anything more than just another step in the rebuilding process despite the club now being in total of control of its players for the first time in years.

No one on the roster can veto a trade or dictate where they want to go now that Soriano has been moved.

“I don’t look at this as a watershed moment or transformative moment at all,” Epstein said in a conference call with reporters. “This is just the right time for Sori to move on and open up some at-bats for Junior Lake.”

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Theo: Sori leaves with head held high

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
8:08
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
On the day he traded Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein repeated something he’s said often about Soriano: He was wrong about him.

“When I came here, for some reason I was under the impression he would be a negative in the clubhouse and someone who was out for himself and wouldn’t play the game hard all the time,” Epstein said in a conference call announcing the trade. “I was quickly disavowed of that notion. We asked him to work on his defense, we asked him to run the bases hard, we asked him to run balls out, we asked him to be an example for the younger players. And we asked him to always play the game hard and try to win the fans back over and be a leader in the clubhouse. And he said, ‘OK’. And he went out and he did it. It was really remarkable to watch him rehabilitate his reputation.”

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Greenberg: Soriano exits Cubs as true pro

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
10:11
AM CT
By modrowskir
ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano was called a lot of things in his Chicago Cubs career.

Savior, All-Star, enigma, the hottest hitter in baseball, overpaid, really overpaid, the guy who jumps before he catches a fly ball, veteran clubhouse leader, #SoriTime.

Sources: Soriano trade to Yanks is official

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
8:44
AM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
The trade of Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees was finalized Friday after he officially waived his no-trade clause, sources told ESPN.

Read entire story.

Cubs give Alfonso Soriano moving send-off

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
1:30
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


PHOENIX -- Although the trade for Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees has not been completed, the Chicago Cubs outfielder was told he could fly to New York on Thursday night by all of the parties involved in the deal.

“I talked to my agent this afternoon and he told me we have to wait,” Soriano said. “He called me again [during the game] and said it is 90 to 99 percent, so if you want to go to New York, you can go. Otherwise I would have to wait for tomorrow morning.”

The emotion of losing the Cubs' charismatic slugger was apparent in a flat effort by his teammates in Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

[+] EnlargeAlfonso Soriano
Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports

With all signs pointing to New York, the Chicago Cubs and Alfonso Soriano said their good-byes after Thursday night's game in anticipation of his trade to the Yankees.

“You can’t fill that kind of void as a person or the guy on the field,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “I know this impacted a lot of people on the field. There were some pretty emotional guys in BP and after.”

Sveum said the entire team said goodbye to their veteran leader in a group send-off after the game.

“After the game we got everybody together to say our good-byes,” Sveum said. “It was emotional for all of us. You don’t usually gather teams together that often when people get traded to say your goodbyes. That just shows you the kind of person he is.”

Soriano looks to return to the Yankees with some mixed emotion after spending almost seven years as a Cub.

“I am happy and I think [the Cubs] are happy, too, because they are going to get something back. I am happy going back to New York where I started my career. I think both ways, [people] are happy.”

The 37-year-old player was feeling some twinges of uneasiness as he packed his bags for the Big Apple.

“There is a difficult part of this,” he said. “I know all these guys and have played with them for a while. This is a little uncomfortable, but this is baseball, sometimes you have to do what is best for the team, for me, and the other organization, too.

“I have been traded before, so I have to keep moving and do my job in New York.”

Soriano had a roller-coaster experience in Chicago after signing the richest contract in Cubs history -- eight years, $136 million in 2006. After numerous leg injuries, the fan base was sometimes agitated during the Dominican’s prolonged slumps.

“The fans were always in focus,” he said. “They always wanted to win; they love when we win. They appreciate when the team wins and plays good.

“I always played hard for the fans because they love their team. I always tried to be a champion here. But it did not happen. I hope it happens in the future for them. Now I have to think about my new team.”

Saying goodbye was difficult for the popular Soriano.

“It was very tough,” he said. “These guys are my good friends, they are good people. It is sad. That is the difficult part of being traded.

“You can be in touch when you go to another team. It is not the same thing as seeing them face-to-face every day. I will remember all those moments we had together.”

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jason Hammel
WINS ERA SO IP
8 2.98 104 108
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .284
HRA. Rizzo 29
RBIA. Rizzo 69
RA. Rizzo 80
OPSA. Rizzo .896
ERAT. Wood 4.86
SOJ. Arrieta 122