Another year, another rumor that Alfonso Soriano will be heading to the Rays. Way back in January, Devon Rogers mentioned Soriano as a trade possibility for the Rays. The 2012 season has come and gone, and that rumor has popped up again. Will it actually happen this time?
Soriano, 36, had arguably his best season since 2008 in 2012, posting a .262/.322/.499 line (121 OPS+) with 33 doubles, 32 homers, 108 RBI, and 153 strikeouts versus 44 walks in 151 games. It’s an established fact that Soriano doesn’t walk too often, and he’s not going to do anything to help the Rays’ strikeout tendencies. But he’s a power bat who has slammed at least 20 homers the last 11 seasons and could certainly help the Rays’ offense. Defensively in left field, how good Soriano is defensively varies wildly depending on who you ask. Since Soriano first started playing left field in 2006, Baseball-Reference has him at -4.9 wins above replacement defensively. Fangraphs has him as an extremely above-average defender, totaling a 72.2 UZR including an 11.8 mark in 2012. Baseball Prospectus has him at 6.9 fielding runs above average since 2006 including a 7.9 mark in 2012, his highest since 2007. But does that even matter? Wouldn’t the Rays use Soriano primarily at DH? The only reason it does is that Soriano has stated that he is reluctant to be a regular DH and might not waive his no-trade clause if a team wanted to use him as such. If Soriano came to the Rays, that would not be a problem as they could put him in left field with Desmond Jennings in centerfield on at least a part-time basis and possibly regularly depending on how the rest of the Rays’ offseason turns out.
The other factor with Soriano is that he has two years and 36 million dollars left on his contract. The Rays would be willing to pay very little of that, but luckily the Cubs might put in as much as 28-30 million dollars as part of a Soriano trade. However, in exchange for doing that they will want a real prospect in return. Would the Rays be willing to trade a player like say Alex Colome or Enny Romero along with a couple of lesser-touted prospects in exchange for Soriano? I would say yes. Soriano is a middle-of-the-lineup presence and would seamlessly replace B.J. Upton‘s power, and while Colome and Romero are nice prospects, there is plenty of risk envolved with them (more so with Romero) and they would be trading a possible contributor in what is already a position of strength to plug up a big major league hole. Will this trade actually materialize? Only time will tell. But it makes sense for the Rays at this point and they will have to consider pulling the trigger.