SEATTLE - JUNE 24: Alfonso Soriano #12 of the Chicago Cubs is congratulated by Geovany Soto #18 after scoring in the thirteenth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 24, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
The Pirates trade for A.J. Burnett in the offseason could be the roadmap for adding aging slugger Alfonso Soriano from a struggling team at a bargain price.
The Pirates' recent surge that has seen them win seven of their past 10 games has put a bit of a lid on pleas for general manager Neal Huntington to try and complete a trade for a big bat. The offense has been scoring more runs lately (No. 8 in the Major Leagues over the last week), and the team looks more formidable than it was just a couple of weeks ago, when it was toiling below the .500 mark.
Still, the Bucs are still last in the majors in many offensive categories, including runs scored, team OPS, and team on-base percentage, a sign it could still use some help at the plate.
As Bucs Dugout's David Todd outlined a couple of weeks ago, though, it's going to be difficult to find that help in the trade market. On the Pirates' end, they don't have many trading pieces that could bring back a front-line major league bat. Compounding problems, at this early point in the season, most teams remain in or relatively close to contention (18 teams are in or within five games of first place), meaning they'll want to hold on to most of their productive players.
These factors combine to create a pretty unfavorable trading environment for Pittsburgh.
The 36-year-old outfielder is signed to a massive contract through 2014 that calls for him to make $18 million per year, all while his club is in the midst of a miserable 19-39 season. It's a commitment the rebuilding club would love to get out from under at least part of, and ESPN's Buster Olney reports Chicago could very well move him if there is interest.
Olney tweets: "It's a given Cubs will eat a HUGE portion of Soriano contract if they find a suitor. With Soriano on a power surge: Will there be suitors?"
Soriano is worth nowhere near what he's being paid (Fangraphs values him a $7.5 million this season), but his .271 batting average, .809 OPS and 11 home runs would fit very nicely in a Pirates outfield in which only Andrew McCutchen has an average better than .230 and OPS better than .700.
Fortunately for the Bucs, unlike elsewhere in the trade market, they have leverage here.
Soriano's contract and advanced age are huge negatives the Cubs would have to compensate for in moving him to small-market Pittsburgh, much as the Yankees took on $20 million of the $33 million due to pitcher A.J. Burnett over the next two years when they sent him to the Pirates in a trade over the offseason.
Consequently, the Pirates likely wouldn't have to give up much of anything in the way of talent to get Soriano. It'd largely be a matter of agreeing on the financials.
Of course, if bigger-market clubs show interest in Soriano, they could conceivably take on a bigger chunk of Soriano's contract and price the Bucs out of acquiring him. Adding a guy entering his late 30s for two years beyond 2012 and statistically in decline could be risky, too.
The fact remains, though, that many of the factors working against Pirates on the broader trading market work for them here. and if the price is right, the Pirates could get a bat at a massive bargain.