One of the more interesting Spring Training stories this year has been the battle between "2B" Alfonso Soriano and Washington Nationals' management.
Last winter the Nationals traded Brad Wilkerson, Termel Sledge, and Armando Galarraga to Texas for Soriano. The problems with this deal were numerous: first of all, Soriano was due a fairly large arbitration payday: he ended up getting $10M for 2006. Secondly, Soriano was overvalued by Nats GM Jim Bowden. While Alfonso still should hit for power wherever he plays, that power should be diminished by the move from one of the most homer-friendly parks in baseball to one of the best pitcher's parks around. Not to mention Soriano is one of the worst defensive second basemen in baseball. And finally, the Nationals happened to already have a pretty good second baseman on their roster in Jose Vidro.
That being said, if they had gotten Soriano to move to left field, they could have at least saved some face. But no, Soriano has refused to move to the outfield, defying manager Frank Robinson before Monday's Spring Training game.
From the Nationals' standpoint, I can at least understand the tactical reasons for trying to move Soriano. Vidro is a much better defender, and there happens to be an opening in left field thanks to dealing away both Wilkerson and Sledge. But why trade for Soriano in the first place? It's not like they needed to fill a hole in the outfield; Wilkerson didn't have a great year in 2005, but he's still valuable enough to leave him in left field. I targeted Wilkerson as someone the Indians should go after in the offseason.
From Soriano's standpoint, he figures a move to the outfield will decrease his value, since slugging second basemen aren't exactly in great supply. But here's the problem: most intelligent GMs already know that Soriano is a terrible fielder, and will decrease their offers accordingly. Sure, he'll get his payday, but I don't think it will be as high as he thinks it will be.
The ultimate farcical conclusion of this will probably come when the Nationals have to trade him, getting an inferior outfielder to Wilkerson in return. The Nats could play the tough guys and put him on the Disqualified List, but I don't think it's worth it.
I don't really feel sorry for Jim Bowden, though: he made the deal without asking Soriano if he'd make the position switch!
What a mess.