Why Sign Soriano: The Cubs were coming off a tremendously disappointing season in 2006 in which they lost 96 games. The pressure was on GM Jim Hendry to turn the Cubs into contenders immediately and he turned to the free agent market to improve the team. Hendry was looking to add some pop to the Cubs lineup and there was no player more qualified than Alfonso Soriano, who was coming off a 40-40 season with the Washington Nationals. Even though Soriano had no real position, the thought of Soriano in the Cubs' lineup was enticing for Hendry.
As GM Jom Hendry stated at the time:
"Once we re-signed Aramis, he was our target guy. We clearly felt he was the best free agent on the market," Hendry said. "I think we're all surprised and happy that the player and his representatives wanted to act so quickly. Usually these type players end up being high stress and high-stakes poker right down to the end."What Went Wrong: Soriano put together a stellar first season with the Cubs in 2007 in which he led the Cubs in most of the major offensive categories despite missing time with a torn quad. In 2008, Soriano missed a large chunk of time because of injuries and as a result, he only played in 109 games. Despite leading the Cubs in home runs again, the season was trying for Soriano as he struggled defensively in left field and became a liability in the outfield. Things (hopefully) bottomed out for Soriano is 2009 when he hit just .241 with 20 HR, played horrible defense once again, and missed most of September because of knee surgery.
Future Implications: The biggest problem with the Soriano contract currently is that it makes it very difficult for the Cubs to make any moves. To be fair, Soriano's contract is not solely responsible for this, but for better or for worse, it seems as though the Cubs are stuck with Soriano for the foreseeable future. He is signed through the 2014 season when he will be 38 years old, which has to be a scary thought for Cubs fans, who have already witnessed their fair share of injuries with Soriano. If Soriano does not return to his all-star form at the plate, then this contract could haunt the Cubs for the next five seasons.
Lesson Learned: It's hard to feel sorry for the Cubs in this situation even though Soriano has been a disappointment over the past two seasons. Anytime you commit 8 years to a 30 year old player, there are important risk factors that you have to consider: injuries and decline. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Soriano has been dealing with his fair share of injuries during his tenure with the Cubs and even though it's not totally clear right now if he is truly declining, there is plenty for the Cubs to be concerned about. Conventional wisdom would suggest that as Soriano shifts father away from his prime years that his numbers will decline even further; for the Cubs sake, they have to hope that the opposite is true for Soriano.
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