Nationals general manager Jim Bowden has set his asking price for multitalented free-agent-to-be Alfonso Soriano: everything you've got and then some.
In a way, it's hard to blame Bowden. In a notoriously weak trade market, Soriano is the clear catch.
Soriano was the majors' first 20-20 man, and he's managed to slug 31 home runs while playing his home games in pitcher-friendly RFK Stadium. However, the Nats have a pesky perception problem: Soriano is considered strictly a 10-week rental by all but one of the teams currently bidding on him. As one AL exec put it, "We all know where he's going to wind up eventually,'' meaning the Yankees.
Talk to a GM looking for an offensive jolt and chances are he'll complain about Bowden's demands for Soriano, such as asking the Yankees for both right-handed pitching prospect Phil Hughes and phenom outfielder Jose Tabata. Executives say Bowden requested the Yankees' only two bona fide blue-chippers along with "two more prospects."
And Bowden's request of the White Sox might be even more onerous. According to an executive with another team, Bowden requested top third-base prospect Josh Fields and right-handed pitcher Lance Broadway, who, judging by his name, seems more suited for New York than any other team. The White Sox, whose real need is for relief pitching, are said to be a "long shot'' in the Soriano Derby, and it's no wonder, since they probably wouldn't consent to surrendering even one of those minor leaguers.
Likewise, the Yankees are telling folks that Hughes and Tabata aren't going anywhere. Their strategy for now, like everyone else's, is to wait Bowden out and hope the price drops before the July 31 deadline.
While the Yankees' prospect ranks thin considerably after those top two, they still have one big thing going for them this trading season, beyond even their seemingly limitless budget: It's suddenly cool to want to go to New York. Both Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell apparently are willing to waive their no-trade provisions to go 90 miles up I-95.
The Angels, Tigers, Mariners, White Sox, Cardinals and Dodgers are among others thought to have interest in Soriano, with Bowden's request of the Tigers reported to include hard-throwing right-hander Humberto Sanchez and speedy outfielder Cameron Maybin, Detroit's best minor league prospects. That, apparently, is only Bowden's starting point: your best two.