Your Philadelphia Phillies are looking to sign 2B/LF Alfonso Soriano, and have made their initial bid:
Baseball sources confirmed that the Phillies are one of “a few” teams to present an offer to the outfielder, believed to be for four to five years. The Phillies are also believed to be willing to go as high as six seasons. Soriano is said to be seeking at least a six-year commitment, and might be looking for something comparable to the seven-year, $119 million contract Carlos Beltran received from the Mets in Jan. 2004.
“They’re in it,” the source said. “They got the ball rolling.”
The source wouldn’t say whether the Phillies were the first team in line for Soriano, and didn’t know how many more teams will enter the fray. As many as nine teams are expected to at least inquire about Soriano’s price, including the Cubs, Angels, Mets and Astros, though Houston is said to be focusing more on Carlos Lee.
I am about to say something that is a bit against the mainstream thought on this, and I mean it with all sincerity: oh crap. I say that for several reasons, which I will outline thusly:
1. Alfonso Soriano is overrated.
Yes, he is goddammit and you can’t convince me otherwise. Do I think he’s an above average 2B? Of course he is. But, as I will outline later, that does not matter in this discussion. What matters is what he has produced over his career, last season, and in the future. Over his career he has 208 homers, 240 doubles and 210 stolen bases. His numbers are nice, but misleading. I will give him one thing: he has a lot of power for his size. His swing is incredibly quick through the zone and it generates a ton of power. However, his 2006 season was sort of out of whack with his career line. His isolated power (slugging – batting average) had never been over 247 before 2006, and was under 24o three times. His power isn’t very reliable, basically. Why? Because he has no knowledge of the strike zone. He will get into bad streaks and will chase bad balls. Prior to 2006 he had never walked more than 38 times, and only hit 67 this past season because he was intentionally walked 16 times (also out of whack). So we can expect his walk rate to go back down, and his on-base percentage along with it.
Speaking of his OBP, it wasn’t even good in 2006. It was .351, good enough for his career best. Put in an average (3) amount of IBBs into the equation and it drops to .335 or so, which is still a slight improvement over his career OBP of .325 (which includes the 2006 abberation). I’m not sure if I want my #4 or #5 slotted player to have a .325 OBP…let alone anyone on the team. Are we supposed to just assume that Soriano will once again post career numbers in both power and patience?
2. Alfonso Soriano has no position on this team.
He can’t really play any defensive position well, especially the ones he plays. He might be able to play center field, but not very well if one could judge by his past attempts with the Yankees and his experiment in LF this past year. We know he won’t play 2B, there’s this Utley character pencilled in for the next 4-5 seasons or so. Centerfield? Why would we sign a guy just to make him learn an entirely new position that’s harder than the one he had trouble with in 2006?
And left field? I know it’s trendy to hate on Pat Burrell, but it must be said that Soriano did only marginally better than Burrell in 2006, and this was due to simply playing more. Burrell had a .293 EQA to Soriano’s .300 EQA, and that includes all the steals that Soriano had. Soriano’s offensive output is simply overrated, as Burrell’s is slightly underrated. Soriano’s 911 OPS is not sufficient enough of a jump from Burrell’s 890 jump to dump Pat’s salary off for tablescraps (as we did with Abreu) and then sign Soriano to a long-term deal. And all of this ignores that Burrell’s 2006 numbers are far less out of whack with the three year average. His power was a bit high, but his walk rate and on-base percentage were all pretty consistent. In my view, he’s more of a known factor.
3. Just 3 months ago the Phillies were dumping a no-trade clause, and got nowhere near value.
As for said long-term deal, the Phillies would be fools to give into the pressure and actually sign Soriano to a 6 to 7 year deal for triple digit money. We are going to risk this on a guy that will be 31 years old in 2 months and possibly also include some kind of no-trade clause? I’m not sure I need to expound on why this is just seriously stupid. To commit this type of money on a career year type player, and especially one who plays two positions we don’t need upgrades at, is just wrong-headed.
4. The Phillies have more important needs.
Instead of filling up positions we already have, we should work the phones to either deal for a 3B or go after Aramis Ramirez. Mark DeRosa is already off the table, why wait and get stuck with Abe Nunez for another year? The only reason we stuck with him is that he was signed to a two-year deal for some unknown reason. Oh wait…we got fooled by a career year!
And what about pitching? We let possibly one of the biggest pitching options go by, as the Boston Red Sox won the rights to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka, at 26 years old, has been said to compare favorably to Johan Santana, who is by far the best pitcher in baseball. Besides him, I don’t see anyone on the free agent market worth it for the Philies to go after. They are either coming back from injury like Mark Mulder, are up and down like Barry Zito, or a bit older and formerly injured like Jason Schmidt. If I had it my way I’d go after Schmidt (or possibly Adam Eaton), but wouldn’t go past 3-4 years on a deal. The best way to get pitching is to develop it, much like we’ve down with Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, so that’s good. Our starting pitching will be better next year simply because Hamels will have an entire season’s worth of starts.
In any event, Alfonso Soriano should not be a Phillie. He would limit our options to spend our money wisely to get a 3B and/or pitcher, and it would upgrade spots that don’t need upgrading, if it even improves them that much. Let’s not fall into that trap.
Edit: I posted this at The Good Phight and a comment brought up some good counters to my piece, so I feel I must add something. I would target the Rockies, Angels and White Sox as possible trade partners for a third baseman, and dangle Aaron Rowand+ for one of those teams’ many third basemen. Anything is an upgrade over Nunez, who had the worst season of any starting player who actually GAINED time throughout the season.
Also, I simply think it is foolish to sign anyone over the age of 30 to a long-term deal of longer than 3 or 4 years. The risk for injury or decline is simply greater when they are beyond what are historically the ‘peak’ years of a player. Let’s not fall into tying up money that we can’t move for anything later. Isn’t that what people complained about with Ed Wade?