Alfonso Soriano

The boos and the big contract never bothered Alfonso Soriano


They don’t boo nobodies.

That’s what Alfonso Soriano once told Tony Campana, who used that line after talking so much trash and getting eliminated from Dale Sveum’s 2012 bunting tournament.

It summed up Soriano’s swagger, the way he interacted with teammates, walking around the clubhouse saying, “Another day in The Show, babe.”

Soriano admitted it was weird playing right field for the New York Yankees at Wrigley Field – as the highest-paid player and biggest name the Cubs have on their books this season. He got polite applause during his first at-bat, and some boos in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss, as the crowd of 38,753 had thinned out on a rainy night.

Soriano became the symbol of “Win One for The Tower” when he signed a $136 million megadeal after a last-place finish in 2006. The next time the Cubs go for it – maybe sometime before 2020 – they better hope that player checks as many boxes as Soriano.

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“When I played here, I think the fans focused on the contract and not the player,” Soriano said, surrounded by reporters in the visiting dugout. “I just play every day, with pain in my knee, and try to make the team better. They don’t realize because they don’t see that.

“They see the contract. They don’t see who I am, how I play. It’s a little different now. But the most important thing is the players, the coaches, the front office, they know how hard I work to get better.”

Soriano had already done one media session in a cramped corner of the visiting clubhouse. Ichiro Suzuki walked into the middle of that one, waiting to get to his locker, sunglasses perched on the top of his head and a green tote bag slung over his shoulder.

The stars blend in with the Yankees, a franchise that can absorb decline years, import new free agents and keep extending that window to contend. It slammed shut for the Cubs after winning two division titles during Soriano’s first two seasons on the North Side – and forming the leveraged partnership between Sam Zell’s Tribune Co. and the Ricketts family that turned this into a small-market team.

“When the team’s doing bad, and you’re the face of the team, for any reason they start booing. I know that,” Soriano said.

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After approving the trade to New York last July, his old teammates erupted when they watched Soriano hit his first home run at the new Yankee Stadium. All the way across the country, they yelled at the TV and cheered inside the visiting clubhouse at San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

Jeff Samardzija – now the longest-tenured player in a Cubs uniform – once called Soriano “the epitome of bravado and machismo.”

Cubs reliever James Russell remembered the time Randy Wells asked Soriano if he had change for a hundred. Soriano responded: “Hundreds are change, babe.”

“He’s one of the cooler personalities you’ll meet in baseball,” Russell said. “It was just a pleasure to play with him. I wish we could have kept him around a little longer. He’s a good veteran leader to have in the clubhouse and on the field. I wish nothing but the best for him. I’m happy to see him back where he started.

“He has a fun way of going about things and it was cool to be around. It kind of opens your eyes to the big-league lifestyle and what you could make out of this game. And once you get there, how to act and kind of carry yourself.

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“He’d get his boos in Wrigley. I don’t see how you can boo a guy like that, but a lot of people don’t know him the way that a lot of the guys in the locker room know him.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi already knew the scouting report: “Very professional. Loved in the clubhouse. Comes to play every day. Gives you everything he’s got. I’ve never met a person who’s said a bad thing about Alfonso Soriano.”

Soriano drives fancy cars, wears flashy jewelry and enjoys flipping his bat and hopping out of the batter’s box. But he’s also a grinder, willing himself to play almost 2,000 games in the big leagues and hit more than 400 career home runs. He reinvented himself as a pretty good outfielder and says he feels like he could play maybe two more years.

After going 0-for-4 on Tuesday night, Soriano will be back at Wrigley Field on Wednesday morning.

“I wish they can win soon, because it’s a great city, good ballpark, good fans. They need it,” Soriano said. “That’s what I signed up for – to win here – because it’s a great organization and great fans. It didn’t happen. But I hope in the future they have the opportunity to win.”

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson
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As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.

Cardinals finished runner-up to Red Sox in David Price sweepstakes

David Price
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

These kind of after-the-ink-has-dried reports have to be taken with a grain of salt for a variety of reasons, but they’re fantastic conversation-starters …

Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the Cardinals “finished runner-up” to the Red Sox in the bidding for free agent left-hander David Price, who signed with Boston on Monday for a record seven years and $217 million.

There were reports early on that the Red Sox were going to have to overpay on Price because he wanted to either stay in Toronto or make the move to the more pitcher-friendly National League. And maybe they did go significantly above and beyond the next-best offer to land him.

But the report from Nightengale serves as an indication that the Cardinals are ready and willing to spend big money ahead of next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. Does that chunk of change now get directed toward Jason Heyward? Or might the Cardinals pounce one of the falling dominos in this still-loaded starting pitching market? What about both?

St. Louis lost Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery last month and both Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha carry some injury concerns into 2016. There’s money to spend there with a new billion-dollar local television deal about ready to kick in.

Pirates expressing interest in Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson
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Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has become the king of the reclamation project. And it sounds like he’s about to take on another big one …

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates have expressed interest in free agent Justin Masterson. The expectation is that it will be a one-year deal with the goal of rebuilding the right-hander’s value in an environment where many other struggling veteran pitchers have executed significant career turnarounds.

Masterson earned his first (and only) All-Star nod in 2013 when he registered a 3.45 ERA, 195 strikeouts, and three shutouts in 32 appearances with the Indians. But he had a 5.88 ERA in 128 2/3 innings between Cleveland and St. Louis in 2014 and he continued struggling to the tune of a 5.61 ERA with the Red Sox in 2015.

It’s not clear whether the Bucs would try him as a starter or reliever.

Zack Greinke deal “could come soon,” Dodgers and Giants lead the bidding

Zack Greinke
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Jordan Zimmermann signed with the Tigers on Sunday for five years, $110 million. David Price signed with the Red Sox on Tuesday for seven years, $217 million.

Two big dominos have fallen in this loaded free agent market for starting pitchers, and another big one is about to go …

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says a deal for Zack Greinke “could come soon” and it’s currently “Dodgers vs. Giants” at the top of the bidding ladder.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick confirms that both the Dodgers and Giants are looking for an answer from Greinke, adding that the 32-year-old right-hander seeks a five- or six-year deal with a greater average annual value (AAV) than what Price just secured from Boston. That number would be $31 million, so we’re talking something close to $32 million through 2020-2021.

Greinke opted out of the remaining three years and $71 million contract with Los Angeles in October after posting a 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP across 222 2/3 regular-season innings in 2015. He finished second to the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in the National League Cy Young Award balloting.