CHICAGO -- The Cubs appear to have landed one of the biggest free-agent names on the market, reportedly signing outfielder Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $135 million contract.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry would not confirm it, but sources said the Cubs likely will have an announcement Monday regarding Soriano, who is coming off his first 40-40 season. Soriano must pass a physical before the deal can be completed.
If the terms are correct, it would be the richest deal in Cubs history, topping the five-year, $73 million deal third baseman Aramis Ramirez inked earlier this month.
It also would be the fifth-largest package given to a Major League player, behind Alex Rodriguez ($252 million for 10 years), Derek Jeter ($189 million for 10 years), Manny Ramirez ($160 million for eight years) and Todd Helton ($141.5 million for 11 years).
Soriano would be the sixth free agent to sign with the Cubs this month. Hendry began his spending spree with the signing of new manager Lou Piniella to a three-year contract on Oct. 17. At that time, Hendry promised Piniella the team would provide the resources to turn things around after a 66-96 season and last-place finish in the National League. He has kept his promise.
So far, the Cubs have re-signed Ramirez, pitcher Kerry Wood (one year, $1.75 million), catcher Henry Blanco (two years, $5.25 million) and pitcher Wade Miller (one year, $1.5 million). The Cubs also have signed free-agent infielder Mark DeRosa to a three-year, $13 million deal and traded for left-handed reliever Neal Cotts.
That's a total of $94.5 million -- and doesn't include Soriano's deal -- and the Cubs have issues remaining to address such as completing the rotation. The spending is a change for Piniella, whose total payroll in his first season with the Devil Rays in 2003 was $19.6 million, and reached $29.7 million in '05.
Soriano, 30, was one of the top outfielders on the market this offseason. The Phillies, Astros and Angels also had been pursuing him after he hit .277 with 46 homers, 41 doubles and 41 stolen bases for the Nationals in 2006.
This past season, he became the fourth player in Major League history to record 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the same season. Jose Canseco (Oakland, 1988), Barry Bonds (San Francisco, 1996) and Rodriguez (Seattle, 1998) are the others.
Soriano has a career .280 average, 208 home runs and 560 RBIs. He has 210 stolen bases, and he has played for the Yankees, Rangers and Nationals. Last season was his first in the outfield, and he ranked second among NL left fielders with 11 errors. Soriano also was fourth in the league in strikeouts with 160, but he doubled his walk total from the 2005 season and improved his on-base percentage (.351).
The right-handed hitting outfielder could lead off for the Cubs and set up sluggers Ramirez and Derrek Lee.
I have to disagree with the comments in the last post by Amato who don't believe that Soriano is a great player.
I understand he's never been a great defensive player and he does strikeout more often than his team would like, but it's hard to diminish the guy's ability on the field when he just became the only man in MLB history to achieve the 40-40-40 (HR, 2B, SB) club and did it in one of the worst hitting ballparks in the NL.
You don't have to be Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, or A-Rod in his prime to be considered a great player.
My best guess is that Yankees fans really soured on Soriano after his pathetic performance during the 2003 playoffs in which he couldn't hit a beach ball with the flat-end of an oar and broke the postseason record for strikeouts.
I certainly understand why fans were sickened by his horrific performance during his final three weeks as a Yankee, but the guy had some huge clutch hits in the postseason as well (ie: hitting the go-ahead HR with his 9-iron in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series off Curt Schilling in the 8th inning and gave the Yanks the opportunity to hand the ball over to Mo to close it out), so we shouldn't overlook or disregard his great performances while he donned the pinstripes.
Do I think the guy is worth 8yrs at $136M? No. But, the guy can flat-out hit and he will be adored by the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field.
Due to the signings of Mark DeRosa, Neal Cotts, Aramis Ramirez, and now Soriano, it is worth mentioning that the Chicago Cubs will briefly own the second-highest payroll in MLB, behind only the Yankees.
That is, of course, until the Red Sox officially sign Matsuzaka.
Now, the Cubs just need to overhaul their pitching staff after Carlos Zambrano and they could be a [cough] contender in the very weak NL Central.