Alfonso Soriano's up-and-down tenure with the Washington Nationals will last at least until the end of this season, with the team holding on to the slugging left fielder instead of dealing him at baseball's trade deadline Monday.
The five-time All-Star was thought to be the most prized player available on the market, but the Nationals decided to keep him rather than swapping him for prospects.
"We felt the best deal we could make is no deal," Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said in a conference call with reporters from San Francisco, where Washington is in town for a three-game series. "He wants to stay in D.C. and did not want to be traded."
Last in the NL East, the Nationals were expected to be big sellers as Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline for making non-waiver deals approached. But they didn't make any trades Monday, and the only player they sent away in recent days was veteran reliever Mike Stanton, who was shipped to the Giants last week.
The Nationals acquired Soriano in December from Texas in a trade that sent outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge plus a minor-league pitcher to the Rangers. The Nationals already had an All-Star second baseman in Jose Vidro, and the team made clear right away it wanted Soriano to move to the outfield.
He balked at switching from second, and the Nationals put off the position issue when Soriano first arrived at spring training, leaving it open until he returned from playing for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic.
When he rejoined Washington in March, he was written down in left field on the lineup card for his first game -- but when the Nationals took the field in the top of the first, Soriano wasn't there.
Bowden immediately threatened to put Soriano on the disqualified list and withhold his salary. But Soriano eventually complied, and he's played a solid left field while providing as much -- or more -- offense than the Nationals hoped, at the same time becoming a clubhouse leader.
Entering Monday, Soriano was batting .286 with 32 homers, 64 RBI and 26 steals.
"We do love Alfonso and what he's done for our team and what he means to our team and what he means to our fans," Nationals president Stan Kasten said. "We're always going to look at the best of our alternatives. For today, there wasn't anything that was good enough to trade him."
Kasten and Bowden have made clear they want to build for the future, with an eye to being competitive when a new stadium opens in 2008. Washington's farm system is considered thin, and so getting young talent appeared to be a priority as the trade deadline neared.
"There wasn't a deal out there that would have helped our farm system in our opinion as much as not making a deal," Bowden said, adding that he heard offers from 20 clubs.
Another reason Soriano was presumed to be on his way out of town is that he can become a free agent at the end of the season. While Soriano has said he wants to stay in Washington, there's no guarantee he would re-sign with the Nationals.
Soriano, tired of the uncertainty and trade talk, also wants a no-trade clause in his next contract, while Kasten hasn't been willing to give players such provisions in the past.
"At the end of the day, it was a very simple decision for us: Keeping Alfonso was the best thing for the Nationals," Bowden said.