How, and Where, The Cubs Could Trade Alfonso Soriano

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IJuly 11, 2009

CHICAGO - JUNE 28: Alfonso Soriano #12 of the Chicago Cubs gets a hit against the Chicago White Sox on June 28, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 6-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Chicago Cubs looked like a steaming pile of hot garbage on Friday in an 8-3 loss to division leading St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a crucial four-game series before the All Star Break.

Whether it's been Rich Harden's inability to gets outs past the second inning, Ryan Dempster's high jumping ability or Geovany Soto's new love handle contusion, the Cubs are giving off the vibes of a team completely out of it in the National League Central.

The funny thing is, just a week ago the Cubs won a big series against the Milwaukee Brewers and looked like they had finally put it together.

So are the Cubs going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

All indications are that, with the sale of the club still pending (despite rumors that paperwork had been submitted to the league offices), Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry's hands are tied by the mess of a financial situation he created for the team.

Even though he might want to add a player, Hendry can't afford to any more.

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There are a couple of ways Hendry could improve his team in the coming weeks, and it all begins with a deal that would take a series pair of, as Billy Packer would say, onions for Hendry to offer. But it's a deal that could make sense for both parties, and could clear the cap space needed for subsequent moves.

There's a team in southern California, I can't remember if it's in Los Angeles or Anaheim, with a team that's fighting for a division title and could use a bat.

Hendry needs to pick up the phone and call the Angels.

Before their game with the Yankees on Friday, the Angels placed two of their core outfielders, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, on the disabled list. Guerrero has had all sorts of leg issues in the last couple years, and is not have a season typical for Vlad (.290 AVG, 4 homers, 21 RBI, .319 OBP).

The losses of Hunter and Guerrero leave the Angels with Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu and Reggie Willits in their outfield, with the team tryng to find a designated hitter.

Is your cell phone charged, Jim? Because here's the deal to offer the Angels.

The Cubs should send Alfonso Soriano to the Angels for Gary Matthews, Jr. Straight up.

Matthews, a switch hitter, is having a season equally miserable to Soriano and equally lacking power to Guerrero's campaign to date. He's hitting just .224 with two home runs and 23 RBI; his on-base percentage is only .281 right now.

He signed a huge contract with the Angels before the 2007 season, and the Angels have regretted it ever since. The the five-year, $50 million contract has escalating salaries that have made him one of the most expensive pieces of concrete on any roster in baseball; he'll make $11 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011 after making $10 million this year.

Matthews is still a Gold Glove caliber outfielder, but he's such a liability at the plate it's nearly impossible for Mike Scioscia to pencil him in on the lineup card.

Like his daddy "The Sarge", Matthews was a Cub at one time. And, like so many players that go on to play well, he did it somewhere else. Perhaps it's time to bring him home.

In exchange for the underperforming, overpaid Matthews, the Cubs would give Anaheim a player with whom the Chicago fans have grown tired. Soriano, his hop-before-every-catch (and drops, as was the case Friday) and swing-for-the-fence approach have started to drag on the Wrigley Faithful. Perhaps a change of scenery would do the one-time 40-40 player some good.

The biggest reason this deal wouldn't happen is money. Soriano has a contract that will pay him $18 million annually from 2010-14, which is a lot of money in any economy.

But consider the following items that might make this deal affordable for the Angels:

  • Matthews will make $23 million over the next two years.
  • Abreu is only signed to a one-year deal for 2009 ($5M).
  • Guerrero is making $15 million in 2009, the final year of his contract
  • The Angels also have Chone Figgins ($5.775 million) and Kelvim Escobar ($9.5 million) in the final seasons of their contracts.

So let's say the Angels want to have the potential for 40 home runs as either an outfielder or, more appropriately, a designated hitter under contract for five more seasons.

And, when you frame Soriano's $18 million salary in the contrext of the Halo's having approximately $20 million coming off their books in the outfield after 2009, adding Soriano's contract wouldn't be adding money the Angels haven't spent before.

If you add Matthews and Figgins to the figure, the Angels would have $18 million replacing roughly $37 million, that's a 50 percent pay cut for their offense. You would also add just $6 million to the Angels' cap number for 2011 by swapping Matthews for Soriano.

For those critics what will say "Spend the money on a free agent," let's look at who will become available this winter. If the Angels want to replace Vlad Guerrero's role in their offense, they'll need to sign a big-time free agent. This winter, there are only two stud outfielders coming onto the market: Jason Bay and Matt Holliday.

What guarantees do the Angels have that they'll be able to sign either of these guys, much less get them for less than Soriano's annual salary of $18 million? And if they could get them for somewhere in that neighborhood, odds are that they'll be asking for more than five years, which is what remains on Soriano's contract.

So Soriano could be viewed as an acquisition that helps the Angels avoid the need to completely restock their outfield in a market full of guys like Abreu, Jermaine Dye, Mike Cameron, and Gary Sheffield.

For the Cubs, making this deal is flawless logic. Matthews, though overpaid, has accepted a supporting role in Anaheim and plays good defense, two things that have never been true of Soriano. He has also never required that he bat leadoff, a nice change of pace for Lou Piniella every day.

This move would, more importantly, open up $7 million for Hendry to spend on another starter or reliever to get the Cubs back into the mix this season. Long term, this deal could save Hendry's job by clearing cash for important acquisitions.

There's a lot of money moving in this deal, and a big name player going to a team in a heated pennant race. While it would certainly signal Hendry admitting a contract was a mistake, it might be a mistake the Angels are willing to pay for over the next five years.

Make the call, Jim.

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