Soriano And A-Rod: Connected Then, And Maybe Now

Christian Petersen

Once traded for each other, the careers of these two players could meet again nine years later at a very strange intersection in baseball history.

On February 16, 2004, the Texas Rangers, already tired of the weight of Alex Rodriguez's $252 million contract after just three seasons, traded him to the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano.

Soriano didn't do much in two years in Texas and after one year with the Nationals, signed the eight-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs before the 2007 season; this, you already know much about.

A-Rod's tumultuous tenure in New York resulted in eight playoff appearances, one World Series title, and one contract renegotiated to the tune of $272 million, $86 million of which is still due to him from 2014 through 2017.

And now these two players could find themselves intertwined yet again; Soriano could find himself traded back to the Yankees, though it's not yet "close":

But if the Yankees and Cubs can make a deal, is Soriano interested in going back to the place he began his major league career?

"I just focus on playing baseball, on playing the game today," Soriano said. "I haven’t talked to my family. If it happens, if they’re getting closer, I will think about it. Now there is nothing there.

"If the president or the general manager (Jed Hoyer) doesn’t call my agent, that’s because there’s nothing happening, nothing close. So if we get something close I want to have time to think about it. Now, there’s nothing to think about."

Well, that's about as noncommittal as Soriano can get, though you'd think he would like the chance to go back to where he had five good years, three previous playoff seasons and the chance to perhaps get a ring.

As for A-Rod, you have certainly read much already about his possible suspension. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal sums it up:

Is Rodriguez, 38, in bad enough shape to be declared permanently disabled? (Doubtful, considering that he was playing in rehab games last week.)

Will he get a lifetime ban from baseball? (Also doubtful, considering that he never has been suspended and that there is little precedent for such a penalty.)

Either outcome, of course, would end Rodriguez’s career. But call all the lawyers: We are hundreds of billable hours away from either possibility being close to reality.

Lawyers, A-Rod has lawyers. He runs through them the way he runs through his blonde girlfriends. The attorneys he employs today are not necessarily the attorneys he will employ tomorrow.

But more important for the possibility of trading Soriano to the Yankees is this paragraph from Rosenthal's article:

It would greatly benefit the Yankees if baseball suspended A-Rod without pay for as much of 2014 as possible. If such an outcome occurred, the salary he forfeited would not count against their $189 million luxury-tax threshold, according to the New York Post. And if the team got under that number, it would reap a series of financial benefits — a stated goal of ownership.

And that's where Soriano comes in. One early report regarding the Soriano-to-the-Yankees rumor said that the Yankees would pay all of Soriano's remaining contract this year (approximately $7 million), but that the Cubs would then eat the $18 million owed to Soriano for 2014, again to help keep the Yankees under that luxury-tax threshold. This makes some sense for both sides, but the Cubs apparently are looking for a decent prospect or MLB-ready player return, and the Yankees might be balking at that.

But something pointing to this deal being made is the fact that the Yankees, old and injured for much of this year, could really use a right-handed power hitter, and Soriano, even at 37, fits that bill. He's been on one of his hot streaks lately, though no one knows when that streak is going to end, and still plays at least a competent left field. The Yankees could also use him at designated hitter, where Travis Hafner has played much of this year (and not all that well, with a .697 OPS and 91 OPS+).

We've discussed Soriano's years with the Cubs many, many times here. By all accounts he's been a good teammate, a mentor to younger players, a hard worker, and never complained when working his way back from injuries. If the Cubs had won the World Series within the first two or three years of his contract, no one would complain (at least I wouldn't) about the rest of the deal.

But they didn't, and so Soriano has at times, and undeservedly so in my view, become a convenient target for those who want to bash previous management for spending too much. It's all water under the proverbial bridge at this point; it seems as if current management would like to deal him and move on. I have no problem with this.

It's just delicious baseball irony that at the time that A-Rod could be facing a lifetime suspension, the man he was once traded for might return to the Yankees. Stay tuned, both parts of this story could get real interesting, real soon.

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