MESA, Ariz. – The $136 million man can only look so far into the future.
While Cubs executives dream of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler – and the fans wonder how good Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo can be – Alfonso Soriano is thinking about the end.
Soriano is 37 years old and has no idea what he wants to do in retirement, other than he’s not a golfer and wants “nothing” to do with baseball. There are still two seasons left on that mega-deal, while 2015 is viewed as a breakthrough year in team president Theo Epstein’s rebuilding project.
So get used to another season of Soriano trade rumors, same as it ever was.
“At my age, I don’t want to be part of a losing team,” Soriano said Monday at Fitch Park. “I hope that we start good and everybody stays healthy and sends a message because I believe in this team.
“I signed here to win the World Series. I don’t want to go somewhere else and win. But if we have a bad start, I have to think about moving somewhere else.”
During the winter, Soriano and his agent maintained a dialogue with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer and let them know that he’d approve a trade to “maybe six, seven teams.”
“It’s a good relationship,” Hoyer said. “He’s been honest with us when we’ve discussed certain destinations with him. Right now, we’re just excited he’s in spring training with us. He looks great.”
When the Giants inquired last summer, Soriano used his no-trade rights and essentially told the front office: Don’t waste your time.
Soriano believed the cold weather in San Francisco wouldn’t be good for his knee and felt the city would be too far from his home in the Dominican Republic.
Whether or not Soriano could have won a World Series ring there, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said there were health concerns about the aging outfielder, and difficulties for both clubs finding a match on “the personnel end.”
“It was more of a general discussion,” Sabean said. “It never got close. But they had to do their diligence to ask the player.”
Soriano still says he doesn’t like the weather in San Francisco.
“Apparently not,” Sabean said.
The Dodgers are believed to be the only West Coast team that would interest Soriano. There are indications he’s open to both New York teams, he loves Chicago (White Sox?) and the Cubs had discussions with the Phillies over the winter.
But the Cubs also don’t need to get rid of Soriano to fix their clubhouse chemistry, or open up a spot for an up-and-coming outfielder yet.
Management made its feelings known during Sunday’s individual meeting with Soriano.
“We just emphasized how impressed we were with what we saw last year,” Hoyer said. “We didn’t know the guy at all coming into camp last year. He’s a leader. He’s a great example for the young players. He tries to be a good mentor. And he hit 30 homers and drove in a hundred.”
Manager Dale Sveum spent years in the division with the Brewers and still had no idea what to expect from Soriano.
“I was completely blown away by the kind of person he is,” Sveum said. “I rank him as one of the top-five people I’ve ever been around in the game as far as work ethic, (clubhouse guy), everything.”
Soriano is still out of place, though, as the symbol for the old way of doing business, when the back end of the contract wasn’t going to matter anyway after all that early success. He has changed perceptions and taken an odd lesson from the Giants. He knows he’ll hear the noise if the Cubs have a bad April.
“It can be weird, because when I signed here, we were supposed to win the first three years on my contract,” Soriano said. “But now it’s a little different. I believe in this team, because I didn’t expect the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series with the team they got. We just have to have a good start and play good at the right time.”