21 November 2006

DPD: 136 Million Reasons the Cubs Will Regret Soriano's Contract

OK, so its not quite that many...

Free agent OF Alfonso Soriano has reportedly signed an eight-year, $136 Million deal with the Chicago Cubs, with whom he is expected to hit lead-off, play left or center-field, and make lots of money while anchoring the better part of a decade's worth of disappointing Cubs teams.

Of course, that's not how the Cubs are billing it, but that's how it will be.

In many ways, Soriano was the biggest available hitter in this year's free agent market. Back in March, when Soriano made a big stink about being asked to play right field for the Washington Nationals, I argued that he was missing the point, and that working his butt off would do a lot more for his market value than just being a secondbaseman would. Turns out that he took my advice, had arguable his best season in 2006, and got himself a pretty nice payday for it. RFK Stadium wasn't quite the Death Valley for hitters in 2006 that it had been in 2005, but with a park factor of 97, it was still a bit more favorable to pitchers than hitters, and yet Soriano set career highs in homers (46) and slugging percentage (.560). More important, perhaps, is that he set a career high in on-base percentage as well (.351), Equivalent average (.300), and Wins Above Replacement Position (8.6), largely due to a career high in walks (67), more than doubling his walk total from 2005. (Granted, 16 of those were intentional, but that still makes 51 unintentional bases on balls, which are 20 more than he had ever had in a single season before.)

Soriano was expected to become a star. A shortstop in the Yankees minor leagues, his combination of speed and power made him a rare commodity as a player, so much more as an infielder, so it was reasonable to overlook his lack of plate discipline and his defensive shortcomings at second base, at least for a while. Though he was showing improvement in that regard while with the Yankees, he regressed considerably as a Texas Ranger, making it reasonable to consider switching him to the outfield, which seems to have worked. He also set a career high in Fielding Runs Above Average (+9) in 2006, which probably accounts for about two wins difference in his actual and expected WARP numbers all by itself.

Those improvements allowed Soriano to sign one of the half-dozen or so richest multi-year contracts in baseball history, with his annual salary trailing only those of A-Rod ($25 million), Manny Ramirez ($20M), His Clutchness ($19M), and Todd Helton ($18M). The real question for the Cubs and their fans: Is he worth it?

Find out if Alfonso Soriano will live up to his contract at Double Play Depth...

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