Cubs open to Alfonso Soriano trade

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs are willing to explore a trade of Alfonso Soriano this winter, although it won't be at the same bargain-basement price they would have moved him for last offseason.

After Soriano drove in 108 runs this season, made huge strides on defense and showed a new coaching staff and front office the positive influence he is in a clubhouse, the idea he might be around for another season isn't so cringe-worthy.

"I thought he had an incredible season both on the field and in the clubhouse," president Theo Epstein said Thursday. "That's one of those pleasant surprises and (manager) Dale (Sveum) talked about it and I agree. I don't think, at least I didn't, I don't think people get an accurate picture of him from watching him from across the field."

The reality, though, is that Soriano won't be around by the time the Cubs turn into a consistent winner like Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are projecting. Then there is the fact he will make just short of $40 million over the next two seasons and there is the potential the club can get some building blocks for the future if he's traded.

"I think if teams pursue him in a trade we will consider it and see if it makes our future better and makes us a better organization going forward," Epstein said. "But he's got value to us because 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."

What it's starting to sound like is that the Cubs will move Soriano, they just won't eat the same percentage of his contract as they might have previously.

"If we trade him we're losing something, and we would have to get something in return to justify that," Epstein said. "If that opportunity comes along and a team is very serious about acquiring him we will go to him and it will be up to him because he has 10-and-5 rights at this point."

Those "10-and-5 rights" are his status as a 10-year veteran with five seasons playing for the same club. It gives Soriano full no-trade rights, which is what he would have used had a deal been worked out with the San Francisco Giants this past season.

Soriano said Wednesday that his preference is to remain with the Cubs, but there is a real possibility he will only play the final two seasons on his contract and then retire. He would like one more chance at winning a World Series and if the Cubs aren't ready to compete by 2014 he would agree to a deal.

"I have a lot of time to think about it," Soriano said. "I'm ready to see my name in a lot of rumors, but we'll see what they want and what they can do. I hope that we can be on the same page and see what happens."