Swinging Out of the Box: The Case For Alphonso Soriano
With more Kevin Youkilis trade rumors today, and teams scrambling for productivity at third base, I have an easy, but controversial idea for the Cubs to move the huge contract of Alphonso Soriano. The best thing for Alphonso Soriano, and the Cubs for that matter, would be to start playing him at third base. I know. I know. He doesn’t even play left field very well, but he is better this year. Not that this has anything to do with playing third base, but his defensive WAR are, I won’t say higher, but are not as low as they have been. The last three seasons for Soriano his defensive WAR have been over -1.5, but almost half way through this season he has -0.2 defensive WAR.
MLBtraderumors.com has recently reported that the Diamondbacks, White Sox, Dodgers, Indians, and Pirates are all in the market for Kevin Youkilis. If Soriano could prove himself a real third base option, the Cubs could wait until Youkilis is moved, and make Soriano a consolation prize for one of the remaining teams.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the state of the third baseman in the majors is not well. Looking at the entire league, there are only five third baseman with at least an .800 OPS, and with a better than replacement level defensive win total, and one of them is Evan Longoria who hasn’t played a game since April 20. Only 11 more third baseman get onto this list if you lower the level to .775 OPS and a -0.2 defensive war. Soriano currently has 13 HRs, a .796 OPS and a defensive WAR of -0.2 in left field, and could be a good fit for any of those teams.
Pirates: Pedro Alvarez – 12 HRs, .738 OPS, 0.2 def WAR - Alvarez is young, a former high draft pick and heralded prospect. The Pirates have enough offensive problems that just moving Alvarez down to the sixth or seventh spot in the order would be adequate. Alvarez also has hit 5 HRs in the last week. Youkilis for the Pirates would probably be a first base option, and Soriano could probably help them in the outfield, and playing third base wouldn’t be neccessary.
Indians: Jack Hannahan – 3 HRs, .735 OPS, 0.5 def WAR – and – Lonnie Chisenhall – 3 HRs, .775 OPS, 0.2 def wins below replacement - Hannahan could easily be moved to a good bench position player and a defensive replacement for Soriano, and Chisenhall, though a simlar situation to Alvarez, is still green enough to return to AAA.
White Sox: Brent Morel – 0 HRs, .420 OPS, 0.0 def WAR – and – Orlando Hudson – 1 HRs, .535 OPS, 0.2 def Wins below replacement- To look at these numbers you have to think they’d be better off with Robin Ventura as player/manager at third base.
Diamonbacks: Ryan Roberts – 5 HRs, .665 OPS, 0.2 def WAR - Roberts could slide easily into a super utility bench position, and Soriano could hit between Miguel Montero and the shortstop in the seven hole.
Dodgers: Juan Uribe – 1 HRs, .625 OPS, 0.3 def WAR - Uribe is .2 wins below replacement in his last 110 games, and hasn’t stayed very healthy over those two seasons.
Throwing out Alvarez’s totals, since his spot is pretty safe, Soriano has more homeruns than all of these other third baseman combined. Only Chisenhall has a comparable OPS, and that is in a small sample size and a severe platoon split. He is 0-11 against left handed pitchers.
Mock this if you will, but could Soriano really be worse at third than Pablo Sandoval or Aramis Ramirez? Many people mocked the Tiger’s for moving Miguel Cabrera to third base. Cabrera has 2.6 WAR this season, and is above replacement defensively this year after never finishing above replacement during any of his seasons at firstbase. I think Soriano could even be an option at second base. With statues like Daniel Murphy and Yuniesky Betancourt playing secondbase for the Mets and Royals, and not really hitting. I think he could be an upgrade there.
All of this is abstract speculation without mentioning the giant elephant in the room, and that is Soriano’s contract. The Cubs would have to play him at third base, and he would have to not fail during the move, before any potential trade partner would take them serious. Even if he whole heartedly succeeded in the transition, the Cubs would have to eat a big part of the 36 million dollars left on his salary just to get an adequate prospect. Regardless if none of the 29 other teams would take Soriano as their everyday third baseman, the Cubs would be better off playing Soriano at third base. Today, it would allow them to move Bryan LaHair to leftfield, and bring up Anthony Rizzo, who has nothing left to prove in AAA, and in the future would make more room for Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur in the outfield. Also, it puts Soriano on the field next to Starlin Castro who, by all reports, he has been a valuable mentor for. Considering the Cubs have played Ian Stewart, Joe Mather and Luis Valbuena at third base this year, Soriano is a better choice to hold the spot while Josh Vitters takes his time and prepares to take the next step from AAA to the majors.