Soriano was signed to a monumental eight-year deal prior to the 2007 season to be the Cubs' next power-hitting, speedy center fielder. The prospect of that happening was always slim because Soriano's defense was so poor and he was almost immediately moved to left field. More recently, injuries have taken away Soriano's speed. His power remains intact, as evidenced by his 26 home runs and 88 RBI, but his batting average (.244) and on-base percentage (.289) completely disappeared in 2011. Because he can no longer get on base and is a serious liability in the field, just replacing Soriano with a young player would significantly improve the Cubs' outlook for the upcoming year.
So, how much money will the Cubs need to eat to deal Soriano? The former star can still help contending teams as a DH, and Soriano will be much healthier if he no longer needs to play the field. In that case, he could see an uptick in his average and on-base percentage. It's not inconceivable to think he could hit around .270 with 25-to-30 home runs, 90-to-95 RBI and a decent OBP out of the designated hitter spot of an American League team.
The Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners look like good preseason trade fits. Both clubs have an open DH slot (at least until the Mariners realize Jesus Montero is better off there than catching) and are desperate for offensive firepower in the middle of their lineups. If the Cubs are willing to eat between $35 million and $40 million of the three years and $52 million remaining on Soriano's deal, then they might come to an agreement.
If not, the Cubs could look to hold on to Soriano until the trade deadline. The team is not poised to contend in 2012, so there is little harm in holding on to Soriano while prospect Brett Jackson remains in the minor leagues. Injuries to players like the Cleveland Indians' Travis Hafner, the Red Sox's David Ortiz and the Blue Jays' Adam Lind could open up potential spots if those clubs are in contention during the summer. After that, the team could still hold on to Soriano if they really cannot find a viable fit—but it's almost inconceivable that he will be with the Cubs next season.