During a slow week for baseball news, an item on Alfonso Soriano piqued my curiosity in ESPN’s Insider-only rumor mill. With Soriano voicing his displeasure at potentially moving to the outfield for the Washington Nationals in 2006, some teams, including the always-active Boston Red Sox, have called Jim Bowden searching for a deal.
The way I see it, however, any team inquiring after Soriano are blinded by his reputation as a power-hitting second baseman. But his recent track record would suggest that his presence would hardly help a team that needs him.
First, let’s look at fielding. Fielding has long been hard to quantify, and numerous writers across the Internet have tried to come up with better metrics for fielding. I’m going to call on Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average).
When it comes to fielding, Soriano is downright awful at second. In 2005, he managed a career-low -25 FRAA. You’re reading that right; it’s a negative number. For all of his talk about not wanting to move from second base, Alfonso Soriano isn’t even a good second baseman.
On the offensive side, the almost-30-year-old has a 162-game career average line of .280/.320/.500 with 33 home runs and 137 RBIs. He shows exceptional power but no on-base ability. He has never managed an OBP over .338, and his OBP has dropped to .308 since his 2003 season. Despite this infrequent appearances on the base paths, he still managed 21 BRAA or Batting Runs Above Average in 2005.
Some simple and statistically sloppy arithmetic shows a total 2005 RAA (runs above average) for Soriano of -4. While he had a WARP-3 (wins above replacement player adjusted for all-time) of 4.9, this simply shows he’s better than a replacement-level player. He’s not producing at the level of an average second baseman, and this would hurt any team that could land that so-called average second baseman.
So now enter the Nationals. A few weeks ago, I looked at how Soriano will suffer offensively in RFK Stadium. He may hit just 10 home runs at home this season if he remains a member of the Nationals. With a shortcoming of power, you can bet that Soriano will be swinging at even more pitches. And missing. His fielding will probably remain the same; his offense will decline. He’ll be worth less to the Nationals than he was as a below-average player on the Rangers.
With that in mind, does it make sense for the Red Sox or any other team to attempt to acquire Alfonso Soriano at the cost of Major League pitching? Not at all. Bowden, a bold GM, is sure to ask for a top-line pitcher or pitching prospect for Soriano, and the second baseman, just one season away from free agency, isn’t worth it. He is after all below average in some regards.
In the end, I don’t blame Soriano for being unhappy with landing on the Nationals. In his contract season, his offense will decline and he’s being asked to switch positions from second base where his 38 home runs look great to left field where his .308 OBP looks awful. He’ll be 31 at the start of his new contract, and he knows he will probably have the chance to really cash in just once in his career. It would make sense for him to lobby for a trade. It just doesn’t make sense for any team to give up a lot to sign him.