The pattern repeats itself.
An outfielder from another team gets hurt -- or suspended -- and immediately speculation begins that the Cubs could trade left fielder Alfonso Soriano to that team.
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Bruce Miles ranks NL left fielders1. Ryan Braun, Brewers, 7.9 WAR
2. Matt Holliday, Cardinals, 5.1
3. Bryce Harper, Nationals, 4.9
4. Martin Prado, D-Backs, 5.9
5. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, 2.7
6. Alfonso Soriano, CUBS, 4.0
The latest round began when the Yankees' Curtis Granderson recently suffered a broken right forearm. So maybe the Cubs could trade Soriano to the Yankees to fill in while Granderson misses about 10 weeks. Soriano could DH and play some outfield.
Or maybe not.
It was the same thing last year after the Giants' Melky Cabrera was suspended for a positive drug test.
Although recent reports say a deal between the Cubs and Giants involving Soriano never got close, Soriano has the final say because of his 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the major leagues and at least five with the same team; and those supersede no-trade clauses). Soriano said last year he didn't want to go to the Giants and the relatively cold weather in San Francisco.
There's no doubt the Cubs would love to trade Soriano, but not because they don't like him or he's a bad guy. Quite the contrary. The new Cubs management team came to like and respect Soriano last season because of his work ethic and positive influence in the clubhouse, both with veterans and with young players.
It's just that Soriano is now 37 and he has two seasons and $36 million left on the eight-year, $136 million contract the previous regime handed him after the 2006 season.
Because Soriano still possesses offense value -- FranGraphs lists his wins above replacement level (WAR) at 4.0 for last year -- the Cubs aren't going to give him away, and you can't blame them.
Soriano put up a hitting line of .262/.322/.499 last year with 32 home runs and a career-best 108 RBI. His OPS was .821, and his OPS-plus was a solid 121. During his first six years with the Cubs, he has a line of .265/.320/.499 with 164 home runs 475 RBI.
He also surprised almost everybody last year by playing solid defense in left field. He made only 1 error, that on a ball he came charging in for. His ultimate zone rating per 150 games UZR/150 (the number of runs prevented above average) was 12.3 last year after being 4.7 a year before and minus-4.8 in 2009.
So he has come a long way in the field, too.
That all would seem to make Soriano an attractive player to trade. But there's the little matter of how much money the Cubs would be willing to eat, and that matter of Soriano approving a trade.
Soriano got his big-league start with the Yankees in 1999, and reporters in Mesa, Ariz., asked Soriano about recent reports of him being a New York stopgap.
"I hope (the Yankees) don't look that way because I feel comfortable here and I believe in this team," he said. "We have a better chance this year and I hope everybody stays healthy and we have a good April and we'll see what happens.
He said the younger Cubs make him feel younger, too.
"I don't know if they (the Yankees) want to call or not. If they call for me, I have to think about it. I don't want to make a quick reaction and say 'yeah' or say 'no.' I want to think about it. I'm 37 years old so I have to think first what's good for me and for the team and for my family, too."
Soriano isn't getting any younger, but if he stays healthy there's no reason he can't have another solid year at the plate. Cubs manager Dale Sveum is fond of telling reporters that "the media guide doesn't lie." In other words, the stats in the guide for an established player are usually what he'll put up.
Baseball Prospectus projects a line of .240/.297/.449 with 26 homers and 79 RBI for Soriano this year. Status guru Bill James' service projects .245/.304/.462 with 27 homers and 79 RBI.
Those are still good numbers for anybody's media guide. The odds are still better than even that Soriano will be in the Cubs' book next spring.