The non waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and the Tigers still find themselves in need, or at least in want, of a corner outfielder. It is very unlikely that a player such as the Mets' Scott Hairston will clear waivers, because there are too many clubs that would happily put in a claim for an outfielder that will earn about $ 383,000 for the last two months of the current season. Others, such as a Josh Willingham or really any player who is worth his contract, are also very unlikely to make it to the Tigers' position on the waiver waiting list.
There will be players, however, that will be put on waivers and will clear, because they are not worth the money they are owed. One player that is certain to clear waivers is the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano. Although he is a good player, he is owed $ 6 million the rest of this season, and is owed $ 18 million per season for 2013 and 2014. No club will pick up that contract, and the Cubs know that they will certainly have to pay a large share of Soriano's contract in order to move him.
On the field, Soriano has hit .274/ .324/ .504/ 828 this season, and those numbers are almost identical to his career stats. He has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past ten years and has 19 homers so far this season. He's been playing left field in Chicago, although there are conflicting opinions on Soriano's defensive abilities. He has a positive UZR/ 150 of 9.7 runs above average since 2010, but a negative 19 "defensive runs saved". Suffice it to say that he's no defensive wizard, but he's better than Delmon Young in the field.
To complicate matters further, Soriano has a full no trade clause in his contract, so he would have to approve any trade. Reports suggested that he refused to be traded to the Giants, who may be playoff bound, before Tuesday's trade deadline passed. Whether he would accept a trade to Detroit is not known. There was a report that the Tigers and Cubs discussed Soriano on Tuesday, but GM Dave Dombrowski shot those rumors down. Jason Beck of MLB.com reported on twitter
Dombrowski on Soriano: "We never discussed him one time. Not once. ... We did speak with the Cubs, but we did not speak about Soriano."
How would Soriano fit on the Tigers? He'd be a left fielder or designated hitter, replacing one of Quintin Berry, Delmon Young, Andy Dirks, or Brennan Boesch, depending on the situation. He would be an every day player, and very likely bat fifth behind Prince Fielder at least until Victor Martinez returns to the team, which may be in 2012 or the start of 2013.
There is no question that Soriano would be a big upgrade in the lineup. The departure of Delmon Young after this season appears to be a foregone conclusion despite Tiger management's infatuation with Young's RBI numbers in seasons past. Players who look for all the world like fourth outfielders, meaning guys like Dirks and Berry, would assume those roles, or start in the event that Brennan Boesch never does regain his stroke at the plate. Soriano would increase offensive production this season and for the two remaining years on his contract.
What would it cost to acquire Soriano? That's the big question. Cubs' GM Theo Epstein drives a hard bargain, but he knows with certainty that the Cubs will have to eat a large chunk of Soriano's salary in any trade. Delmon Young makes $ 6.75 million. Josh Willingham got $ 7 million. There are endless comps of outfielders that make far less than Soriano, and you can compare the numbers all day long. In the end, Soriano may be worth half of his salary, or less.
Then, there's the trade value, and no doubt there is a trade off between how much a team will have to give up in terms of prospects and how much salary the Cubs have to pay to move his contract. Ultimately, this will be determined by how badly Theo Epstein wants to be rid of Soriano and his contract, and how badly Dave Dombrowski wants another middle of the order bat.
I think that, if the Cubs pay half of the salary, there is little or no surplus value there. The Tigers could do better by going shopping in the winter. I would therefore demand that the Cubs pay the lion's share of Soriano's salary and take a couple of lesser prospects in return. That's not likely what Epstein is thinking. When it came to trading Ryan Dempster, he held out for a top prospect, either Zach Lee or Alan Webster from the Dodgers and refused to make the deal without one of them. The Cubs were reportedly willing to pay some of Dempster's contract, but money wasn't the issue with the Dodgers. Dempster was then traded to the Rangers at the last minute.
If the same pattern holds true with Soriano, the Cubs will be willing to pay most of his contract, but they will want top prospects in return. Nick Castellanos, Bruce Rondon, and Drew Smyly could be in the conversation. And from a negotiating standpoint, Chicago is in no hurry to make a deal. They can wait until the off season, when they will have potentially every major league club to bargain with.
For the Tigers, there is a sense of urgency, given the lack of production from their corner outfielders at the present time. Either they hope that Andy Dirks returns to his former production, and Brennan Boesch or Ryan Raburn morph into the players that they were for half a season last year, or they add a corner outfielder. Publicly, Jim Leyland says that the players they have are good enough. Of course, he's going to say that. But Mike Ilitch has invested $ 135 million in the 2012 payroll, and he is determined to win.
The Tigers are likely to try and make a move fairly soon, despite the passing of the non waiver trade deadline. If not Soriano, then another player who clears waivers, like Aubrey Huff did in 2009, or one that makes it through the waiver gauntlet to the Tigers' position, like Delmon Young did in 2011. The latter scenario is tough to imagine, with clubs such as the Indians, Rays, Jays, and Red Sox all having priority over the Tigers as of now.