Best, worst signings so far, the Zito market and more
Posted: Monday November 27, 2006 1:55PM; Updated: Monday November 27, 2006 3:34PM
Alfonso Soriano is expected to play center field for the Cubs after collecting 22 assists and 11 errors in left field with the Nationals last season.
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Ten questions that have popped up since the Cardinals stunned everyone ...
1. Do the Cubs really think Alfonso Soriano can play center field?
I don't know why they should. In six full seasons in the big leagues, Soriano has never played there. And if you look beyond the 22 assists he had in left field last year, his first season in the outfield, he didn't have a particularly good defensive go at it. He made 11 errors. Only the Reds' Adam Dunn, a brutal glove, had more among left fielders. Soriano took a lot of bad routes to balls, too, and just flat-out misplayed several others.
You simply can't hide those kinds of deficiencies in center field, especially in Wrigley with its schedule of sunny afternoon games, its famed winds and the imposing brick wall. Yeah, Soriano has the speed to cover the extra ground, he has a strong arm and he's proved to be adaptable. But his lack of experience in center means he'll take his lumps. If he ever makes it that far, that is.
Don't be surprised if the Cubs somehow make another move and put Soriano in a corner outfield spot, where he's a little more at home and his arm would be better utilized. Wherever he ends up, defense was clearly a secondary consideration in this signing.
2. And the Cubs think he'll be a good leadoff hitter?
I wondered about that, too. Why would you hit a guy who had 46 homers and struck out 160 times last year at leadoff? Still, considering that the team already has Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee to knock in runs, and nobody to lead off, this was kind of a no-brainer.
It'd be great if Soriano struck out less and walked more, making that on-base percentage a little more palatable. But he should hit enough, and he certainly has the speed that you'd like from a leadoff guy. When he slows down, in the sixth or seventh or eighth and final year of his $136 million contract, then you can drop him in the lineup. Right now, I think he'll work out fine at the top of the order.
3. Speaking of center fielders ... $50 million for Gary Matthews Jr.?
Even in an offseason of excess, $50 million for five years, for this player, seems a little excessive. And I'm not sure what's more galling, the money or the length of the contract.
Matthews, of course, picked a perfect time to have a career year. He was also helped by the fact that center fielders are hard to come by this offseason. But the Angels are much more likely to get a .260 average, a .320 on-base percentage with 15 homers than what Matthews gave the Rangers last year (.313/.371/19).
I just have to figure that this was a case of the Angels doing what they felt they had to do to fill a need. When a team is forced into something, this is what it ends up with.