Cubs president Epstein gives outfielder a few days to weigh his options
PHOENIX -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the club has asked Alfonso Soriano to take a few days to weigh his trade options, and the veteran outfielder said Wednesday one possibility would be the Yankees, with whom he broke into the big leagues in 1999.
"He'll let us know where he'll go, if anywhere," Epstein said Wednesday. "At that point, it's up to us if we want to move forward and finalize a deal."
Soriano met with Epstein and manager Dale Sveum after Tuesday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks to discuss the trade rumors swirling around the outfielder. Soriano said he presented them with a list of teams he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause in order to join.
"The Yankees are on the list," Soriano said.
Soriano, 37, has been the subject of trade rumors as recently as last year when the Giants were reportedly interested.
"It's not 100 percent yet," Soriano said about a trade, "but I'm open, and if some team calls, and it's a contender, I think I'll be in a better position. If not, I'll be happy either way."
"I think it's the closest it's ever been," Soriano said of a possible trade.
The Cubs inked Soriano to an eight-year, $136-million contract before the 2007 season. The deal runs through the end of next year, when he is scheduled to earn $18 million. The Cubs likely will have to cover part of Soriano's remaining salary in any trade.
In a perfect world, Soriano said he would rather stay in Chicago and help the Cubs win a World Series.
"I said in Spring Training, I'd like to finish my contract here," he said. "But at the same time, I want another chance to get in the playoffs, to get in the World Series. I'd be more than happy if we start playing better and I've got a chance to win here. But I'm 37, so I want to have one more chance to go to the World Series. If they don't have that in their minds, if they're preparing the team for 2015, 2016, it's too late for me. At the same time, I try to be a champion here. If not, I have to try to do that somewhere."
Soriano talked to his family after Tuesday's meeting.
"My wife told me, any decision I make, she supports me," Soriano said.
It will be a difficult decision, Soriano said.
"It is, because I've been almost seven years here with the same team and feel comfortable here, I have my place in Chicago, I know the city," he said. "This is baseball. Sometimes you feel comfortable, but that's my job. Sometimes you feel comfortable here and sometimes you have to move somewhere and try something different."
Soriano was not in the Cubs' lineup Wednesday against Ian Kennedy, even though he's a .462 hitter against the Diamondbacks' right-hander. Sveum said he'd already planned this game as an off-day for the veteran.
"We've seen what happens with his legs, and even his game when he gets those breaks," Sveum said of Soriano. "It happened, obviously, with the timing of all this going on. I think it's a good time to let him reflect and sit back and think about what's going on."
Soriano has had to answer questions about possibly being traded since Spring Training -- he was rumored to be headed to the Yankees in February when Curtis Granderson was injured. He appreciated the day off.
"Mentally, it's too much for me," Soriano said. "It's good to have a day to not think about playing baseball. Just give me a little break to my mind."
Soriano broke into the Major Leagues with the Yankees in 1999 after they purchased his contract from a Japanese team. He stayed with New York until 2003, when he was dealt to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were his teammates then, and Robinson Cano lives in the same town as Soriano in the Dominican Republic. Soriano could end his career back where he started.
The Cubs have already made five trades in July, including Monday's deal that sent Matt Garza to the Rangers for five prospects.
"I appreciate that they have shown me a lot of respect," Soriano said of the Cubs' front office. "I think I helped the organization and I helped the young guys here, and I think that's why they handled the situation with a lot of respect, and I appreciate that.
"We're not rushed; we have six, seven days. I think the best offer for them, I think that's what they want to take. We'll see. It's not rushed because we have a week to see what happens."
Epstein used the meeting to thank Soriano for how he's mentored the younger players and handled himself.
"Sometimes there's a natural time to move on, to clear opportunities for younger players, to get 'Sori' into a pennant race and play every day," Epstein said. "We just wanted to outline it [in the meeting]. It seems like it might be an appropriate time if he is going to move on to do it now. We can keep [Junior] Lake in the lineup a little bit while he's hot. We've got [David] DeJesus coming back from the DL, we've got [Brian] Bogusevic and [Ryan] Sweeney coming back. We're looking to give opportunities for young players."
On Wednesday, Lake started in left field, while Soriano rested. Could it be a passing of the torch?
"I see Junior, he's like me in 2006 -- first time, infielder, moved to the outfield," said Soriano, who played second base for the Yankees. "It's kind of the same. I hope he can have the same career or better. He's young and athletic and good people, too."
"That's a pretty good comparison," Sveum said of Soriano and Lake, who played third base at Triple-A Iowa. "That same age and tool-wise, and the power and the speed and ability to do things, and being a converted infielder."
Could Lake be a 40-40 player like Soriano was in 2006?
"He's got the talent and the power and the speed," Soriano said. "He can do that."