After this season, Alfonso Soriano will be halfway through his 8-year contract (gulp). After hitting .299 and .280, respectively, in 2007 and 2008, and helping lead the the Cubs to division titles in each of those years, Soriano played just 117 games last season and batted a paltry .241. Of his three seasons with the Cubs, 2009 was his worst in virtually every statistical category. He also had 11 errors in left field, and his overall defense would be better described as apathetic than athletic. Or perhaps apoplectic.
Soriano's days as a leadoff man are over (he's 34 years old), and he will most likely bat fifth or sixth in the Cubs' lineup. He's no longer a five-tool player (his tool set is down to two, three at most), but if he can once again harness the power that has resulted in five 30+ home run seasons over the course of his career, he can provide a solid force in the middle of the order.
What I fear: That his knee played a role in his decline, but that his advancing age is the real issue. His home run totals have declined each of the last four years, he hasn't had more than 75 RBI in any season with the Cubs, and he hasn't played more than 117 games either of the last two seasons. Soriano used to be an agile second baseman who could run the bases and make exciting plays in the field--that is not the man who has played for the Cubs the last three years (side note: Soriano made SportsCenter's Top 10 plays with a diving catch on Saturday--perhaps he gave up laziness for Lent?)
What I hope: That batting lower in the order will enable him to get the most out of his skill set. While he stole 41 bases in his one season with the Nationals, it quickly became clear to fans that the Cubs had signed a slugger, not a stealer. In his three years with the Cubs, Soriano has just 47 total stolen bases (and only nine last year). Batting lower in the order with more RBI opportunities will hopefully lead to a 90- or 100-RBI season rather than the 67 he has averaged as a Cub.
What I fear: That the stubborn bastard won't be comfortable batting anywhere other than leadoff. In the past, he has been adamant about batting at the top of the order, but it looks like Lou is finally going to act like a manager and make out his own lineup. Soriano has to be intelligent enough to realize he doesn't belong at the top any more, right? Let's hope so--in his career as a Cub, his average is 14 points lower in the sixth hole and his home run rate is just over half of what it is when he leads off.
Prediction: A DL stint seems more than likely, which will affect his numbers.
.279 avg, 28 HR, 85 RBI.
Not worth $17 million, but it could get the job done if the rest of the lineup produces as it's capable of doing.
Agree or disagree?