Rangers trade Soriano to Nationals for three players

DALLAS -- All-Star second baseman Alfonso Soriano was traded by the Texas Rangers to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night for Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and a minor league pitcher.

The deal was pending physicals.

With a rare combination of power and speed, Soriano has been one of the most productive infielders in the majors the past four years. He hit .268 with 36 homers, 104 RBI and 30 stolen bases last season, when he earned $7.5 million.

Eligible for arbitration, he almost certainly will get a substantial raise next year, and he can become a free agent after the 2006 season. He is a .283 career hitter with 162 home runs.

Soriano gives the Nationals the dynamic offensive player they desperately need. Washington finished last in the majors in batting
average (.252), slugging percentage (3.86), runs (3.94 per game)
and homers (117), along with an NL-low 45 stolen bases.

With Jose Vidro already entrenched at second base, it's believed the Nationals will move Soriano to left field.

It appears the Nationals would want him to move to the outfield after losing two outfielders in the deal. Plus, they already have a past All-Star at second base in Jose Vidro, though he was hampered by leg problems last season.

Soriano has been reluctant in the past to switch positions. When he was acquired by Texas in the February 2004 trade that sent AL MVP Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees, Soriano remained at second base and Michael Young moved to shortstop, where he became an All-Star.

Wilkerson was a sandwich pick in the 1998 draft, picked 33rd overall by Montreal.

Forced to bat leadoff because the Nationals decided no one else could do it, Wilkerson struggled last season with a variety of
injuries and wound up batting .248 with 11 homers, 57 RBI -- and
147 strikeouts. That came after he had career highs with 32 homers
and 39 doubles in 2004.

Wilkerson can play all three outfield positions, and will likely be a starter at one of the corner spots for Texas. He can also play first base, but the Rangers already have All-Star Mark Teixeira there.

Sledge was limited to just 20 games last season after tearing his right hamstring off the bone while chasing a ball in the outfield May 2, and hit .243 with one home run. He had a promising rookie season with the Expos in 2004, recovering from a 1-for-34 start to finish with a .269 average, 15 homers and 62 RBI.

Sledge hit the first homer in Nationals history, a two-run shot
against Philadelphia.

The Rangers also get right-hander Armando Galarraga, who went a combined 6-8 with a 3.80 ERA in 27 starts at Class A Potomac and
Double-A Harrisburg.

In other news, Washington offered arbitration to pitchers Tony Armas Jr. and Joey Eischen.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.