The eight-year, $136 million contract Alfonso Soriano signed with the Cubs ends after this season. And the Yankees outfielder is thinking this year might be it for him, according to the New York Post:
Alfonso Soriano could join Derek Jeter in retirement following the end of the upcoming baseball season. "It depends on how I feel," Soriano said when asked by The Post if he wants to continue playing. "If I am healthy I will play [in 2015]. If not, I will let it go. It depends how I feel." Soriano will be 39 in July and this will be his 14th big league season. Between the Cubs and Yankees last year, Soriano hit 34 homers and drove in 101 runs proving he wasn’t in decline. The splits were eerily even. In 93 games with the Cubs, Soriano batted .254 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs. In 58 games with the Yankees he batted .256 with 17 homers and 50 RBIs.
Let me issue one correction to that quote. Soriano's birthday is in January and he just turned 38, so he won't be 39 until early in 2015. Also, later in the article the writer, George King, says the Cubs deal was a "nine-year" contract, which we know to be not correct.
Alfonso Soriano was always a contentious figure in his six and a half years as a Cub. At times, he was dominant; the Cubs would not have won the N.L. Central in 2007 without his incredible September (.320/.354/.754 with 14 home runs in 28 games). Injuries took away most of his speed (though he did manage to steal 18 bases in 2013 and despite not being on the Cubs for the last two months of the year, led the team in stolen bases with 10), he was an indifferent outfielder after leading the league in outfield assists (19) in 2007, and he never got back to his 2007-08 level of performance until 2012, largely due to those injuries.
The article notes that Soriano doesn't really care to be a DH, but in the 35 career games he's played as a designated hitter, he has hit .289/.315/.587 with nine home runs in 121 at-bats. He seems well-suited to the role.
The question I have for you is: What is Soriano's legacy? If he does indeed retire after 2014, let's assume he has a similar year to 2013. That would leave him with career totals of approximately 2200 hits and 440 home runs. If he can steal 12 bases -- not impossible -- that would give him 300. Here are the three players who have hit that many career HR and stolen that many bases: Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. He needs 34 doubles for 500 in his career; that's doable (he had 32 last year). All of the 11 eligible players who have at least 500 doubles and 440 home runs are in the Hall of Fame.
So he's got the counting stats. What about WAR?
Well, that's where Soriano falls short. He enters 2014 with 28.6 bWAR, far below most Hall of Famers (most have at least twice that number), and here's his top-10 comps from baseball-reference:
Shawn Green (882) Aramis Ramirez (882) Jim Edmonds (878) (868) Torii Hunter (864) Dale Murphy (863) Andruw Jones (858) Ellis Burks (858) Joe Carter (849) Carlos Lee (848)
No Hall of Famers in that list, most likely. Note, though, that the highest comp number is 882 -- meaning that even Soriano's closest comp isn't that close (over 900 is considered better).
Alfonso Soriano doesn't fit in any one historic box. He was a second baseman for several years -- granted, not a very good one -- but he hit for more power than almost any second baseman in history while he played there (159 home runs from 2001-05, the years he was primarily a second baseman). He's a seven-time All-Star, but never finished in the top five in MVP voting, not even in the massive year he had in 2006 for the Nationals, the year that got him the big-money deal from the Cubs.
I'd have to say "probably not" if asked to vote for Soriano for the Hall of Fame, but it's closer than you might think -- and if he does continue playing beyond 2014 and perhaps gets to 500 career home runs, then what?
Thought this might be an interesting Friday discussion topic, so have at it, and vote in the poll.