I can hear the cries already: "BUT SORIANO's CONTRACT IS TOO BIG TO PLATOON!" Do you want to play the guy with the biggest contract, or do you want to win some games? The Cubs have a chance to play Colvin nearly everyday in 2011 and give themselves a chance to trade Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano as well.
In nearly every projected Cubs lineup for 2011, Kosuke Fukudome will platoon with Tyler Colvin in right field. The assumption goes that Fukudome will start most games against right handed pitchers while Colvin will mostly start against lefties and pickup the occasional start against righties. With the Cubs hoping to trade Fukudome mid-season, if not earlier, Colvin should win the everyday starting role in right field after Fukudome departs. What those assumptions ignore is the $18 MM albatross in left field. If the Cubs want to get the best value from their outfielders in 2011, they should start Tyler Colvin in left field against right handed pitchers until Fukudome is traded or until Soriano shows he can out-hit Colvin or Fukudome against righties.
Last year Fukudome showed he can be a true everyday lead-off hitter against right-handed pitching with a .377 OBP against righties. Few fans or analysts would be surprised to see Fukudome leading off against righties in 2011. With Tyler Colvin leading Alfonso Soriano by 20 points in .wOBA and 50 points in .OPS against righties last year, why shouldn't the Cubs attempt to platoon the sophomore in left field in 2011?
Last year, Alfonso Soriano hit only .243 against right-handed pitchers. His underwhelming .328 wOBA and .764 OPS show just how little he contributed at the plate against right handed pitching. Tyler Colvin, on the other hand, made us all dream big with his .347 wOBA and .810 OPS against right handers.
While Soriano rates higher than his left field counterparts in zone rating, we know he is not a defensive wizard. Colvin could easily handle the position part time until Fukudome is shipped off or proves unworthy of holding down right field everyday. This means even if Colvin is a push in fielding, he can add value to the lineup over Soriano in offense. At this point, most people cry "BUT WHAT ABOUT COLVIN'S DEVELOPMENT IN RIGHT FIELD?" I doubt starting 30 or 40 games in left field will make that big of an impact over the course of his career. In fact, Colvin could eventually move to left field according to some analysts.
We know the Yankees and other playoff bound teams love to exploit lefty/righty splits. If the Cubs can play Soriano mostly against lefties and Fukudome mostly against righties, they stand a chance of inflating the trade values on both players. It is expected that the Cubs will have to pay some of Fukudome's remaining salary if they are able to trade him in 2011. The value they get in return will likely ride on the perceived impact Fukudome and/or Soriano will have on a contender. Most of all, if the Cubs ever hope to move Soriano's dead elephant of a contract, they will need to do whatever it takes to get Soriano to demonstrate value to other teams. Maybe putting Soriano in a position to inflate his slash lines will get him out the door.
Who knows, maybe Soriano could have a second life as an American League designated hitter? If the Rays can guarantee slap-hitter Johnny Damon $5 MM to DH and play first base, what would they pay for Soriano?
This is my first post on Bleed Cubbie Blue. Happy to be here. Please be gentle on my baby posting bones.