Hot Stove: Soriano deal has ripple effect
Teams will look elsewhere for free agent offense
The Cubs made the biggest splash of the free agent season by locking in slugger Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract Monday, but the ripples created by the Soriano signing will likely impact the Hot Stove market for several weeks.
The immediate ramifications of the transaction were being felt by a number of teams.
The Washington Nationals will miss Soriano's offense, but his departure triggers other events: The Nationals will get the Cubs' second-round and sandwich picks in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Washington will not get Chicago's first-round pick, because the Cubs finished in the bottom 15 of the Major League standings. Washington GM Jim Bowden and team president Stan Kasten said all along they were willing to get draft picks for Soriano to improve the farm system.
Soriano's departure also means Kory Casto and Ryan Church will compete for the Nationals' starting job in left field. Casto is considered by many in the Nationals' front office to be the frontrunner. He began last season as the starting third baseman for Double-A Harrisburg. Before the July trade deadline, however, assistant general manager Bob Boone told Casto to switch to left field, as the Nationals were planning to call up Casto to the big leagues had they traded Soriano before the deadline. Casto was the organization's Minor League Player of the Year the last two seasons.
Outside the beltway, the impact was less clear cut.
With Soriano now off the market the other teams who had offers out to the the 30-year-old outfielder, particularly the Phillies, Astros and Angels, will now have to look elsewhere to find the offense they are seeking.
The Soriano signing so far in advance of the Winter Meetings surprised many baseball observers, and the amount and length of the agreement was an even bigger surprise and caused some clubs to re-evaluate their positions with respect to the market.
Soriano, who finished sixth in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting released Monday, was in a class by himself among position players in this free agent market. The next tier isn't that far behind, which makes you wonder how many years and how much money a free agent like 30-year-old Carlos Lee will get now that the newest Cub slugger is off the market.
No doubt some teams looking for offense will conclude it makes more sense to pursue their needs on the trade market.
According to the New York Daily News, the Angels are exploring the possibility of acquring star slugger Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox. Ramirez, of course, has been on the trading block before, but is thought to be more likely to move this winter because of the rise in the market.
The Astros were disappointed to lose out on Soriano and to lose him to a division rival, but have kept up their efforts to sign Lee. The Astros are also mulling potential trades in case they lose out on Lee, and there are several other teams interested in Lee, including the Orioles and Giants.
Besides Soriano, the Phillies had also considered Moises Alou, but the veteran outfielder signed with the Mets on Monday. Losing out on Soriano may signal a change in thinking regarding left fielder Pat Burrell. Burrell has a complete no-trade clause but has been linked to the Angels, who also missed out on Soriano, and Giants, who lost Alou.
"In my mind, he's playing left field," Phillies GM Pat Gillick said. "He thinks he's going to be back and is getting himself ready to play. His [right] foot still wasn't back to 100 percent."
Gillick recently visited Burrell in Arizona and came away optimistic.
"I was glad to hear that he was committed to coming back and playing as well as he did in 2005," Gillick said.
Elsewhere on the Monday Hot Stove ...
Braves, Mets: The Mets declined Tom Glavine's $14 million option for 2007. The veteran pitcher now is free to rejoin the club with which he made his Major League debut and his primary mark in the big leagues -- the Braves.
With Glavine receiving $3 million through the buyout in his current contract, the Braves won't necessarily need to match the Mets dollar for dollar.
If Glavine were to choose to stay close to his family in Atlanta, he would almost definitely leave at least $4 million on the table. The Braves' top offer for a one-year deal would likely be in the neighborhood of $7 million while the Mets are expected to offer a two-year deal with an annual salary of at least $11 million.
The Braves' strict stance on not providing a no-trade clause may also play a major factor. Glavine's agent, Gregg Clifton, expects the Mets to provide a no-trade clause.
Glavine, who is on vacation this week, is expected to make a decision some time next week. He still contends he'll only play for the Braves or Mets.
Clifton says Braves general manager John Schuerholz will have to make the first move to start any negotiations.
"Tom has not authorized me to pick up the phone and call the Braves," Clifton told the Newark Star-Ledger.
Brewers: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported again that while general manager Doug Melvin "can't say so publicly, he is very open to offers for disappointing right fielder Geoff Jenkins, who won't be easy to move with a $7 million contract for 2007. Melvin probably will have to wait until Soriano, J.D. Drew and Lee are signed before clubs start looking at second-tier hitters."
Jenkins is entering the final year of his contract but has a club option for 2008 at $9 million.
Cubs, Mariners: The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that free-agent pitcher Gil Meche tops the wish list of Cubs' general manager Jim Hendry. Meche -- who was 11-8 with a 4.48 ERA for the Mariners in 2006 -- is said to be seeking at least $8 million annually.
Cardinals: A report in Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests that the Cardinals are unlikely to be serious players for Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito, as much because of a hesitation to give five years as because of money. The report lists Adam Eaton, Kip Wells, Meche and Vicente Padilla as all being on the team's radar.
Padres: According to the Japan Times, the Padres are among four teams bidding on left-hander Hideki Okajima, a reliever for the Nippon Ham Fighters. The Padres are expected to make a bid on LHP Kei Igawa of the Hanshin Tigers.
Phillies: The Philadelphia Daily News reported free agent catcher Mike Piazza could be signed as protection for Ryan Howard in the lineup. Piazza is from the Philadelphia area and no doubt would love to hit in that ballpark, but might prefer to go to an American League team where he can be a designated hitter.
Rangers: The Rangers have signed outfielder Frank Catalanotto and are expected to announce the signing on Tuesday after he passes a physical. The Rangers have had discussions with the Chicago White Sox about their starting pitching and have bullpen help to offer in return.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This report was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.