Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Epstein: Cubs value Soriano

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Theo Epstein won't hang up on anybody who calls to talk about trading for Alfonso Soriano.

But the last expensive slugger on the Cubs' roster impressed the new team president enough this season that the Cubs won't be shopping their left fielder all winter like they did last off-season.

That all but assures the Cubs of going into the off-season with two-thirds of their starting outfield for next year in place, including David DeJesus. (Rookie Brett Jackson, who hit .175 with 59 strikeouts in 44 games, was told the club plans to send him back to AAA next April).

``[Soriano] was one of those pleasant surprises,'' Epstein said Thursday, the day after the Cubs closed out a 101-loss season - with Soriano providing 32 home runs, 108 RBIs and a career rebirth defensively.

``I don't think most people get an accurate picture of him watching him from across the field,'' Epstein said. ``I think there was too much emphasis placed on a couple rare occasions in the past when he maybe didn't run balls out or was embarrassed by a play in the outfield. And I allowed that to color my impression of the player in person as a whole.

``So coming in here I actually had a little trepidation about how we'd handle him and the contract, and if his skills declined how we would handle playing time. I'll be honest: It wasn't something I was really looking forward to.

``Those concerns proved to be completely baseless.''

Echoing Soriano's teammates and the new field staff, Epstein raved about Soriano's work ethic and leadership and value as a role model on a team that got younger throughout the season.

``He turned out to be as great a clubhouse guy as there is in the game,'' Epstein said, ``It was an eye opener for me.''

That doesn't exactly make Soriano - with two years and $36 million left on his contract - untouchable, as far as the Cubs are concerned. And despite full no-trade rights, Soriano has said he'll remain open to considering potential moves to contenders in places he feels comfortable.

But it's no longer a font-burner effort for the brass.

``If teams pursue him in a trade, we'll consider it and we'll see if it makes us better as an organization going forward,'' Epstein said. ``But he's got value to us. He helps us win games. He provides protection in the lineup. And he's a great example for our younger players to follow in the clubhouse.

``So if we trade him, we're losing something. So we have to get something back in return to justify that. And if that opportunity comes along and a team is very serious about acquiring him, then we'll go to him and it'll be up to him.''

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on October 4, 2012 3:35 PM.

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