Soriano prepares for another change

Soriano prepares for another change

DALLAS -- The short baseball life of Alfonso Soriano took another twist late Wednesday night, when the four-time All-Star second baseman was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Washington Nationals.

Considering that a little more than two years ago Soriano played second base for the Yankees when they lost the World Series to the Marlins, the progression has to be a shock to the system.

"It was a little bit of a surprise but I knew it was possible," Soriano said about the trade when reached by MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on Thursday morning in the Dominican Republic. "I heard a lot of stuff in Texas for a long time."

Last time, Soriano was traded for Alex Rodriguez. This time, he was traded for two outfielders: Brad Wilkerson, the last player to wear a Montreal Expos uniform in competition during last year's postseason All-Star trip to Japan, and Terrmel Sledge, who was banished from both Team USA and international competition for two years after failing a drug test during Olympic baseball tryouts in 2003.

It's one thing to be traded for A-Rod in a blockbuster deal and quite another to be dumped into one of baseball's current no-man's lands after hitting 64 homers and knocking in 195 runs for Texas in two All-Star seasons. Soriano hit a three-run homer and was the MVP of the 2004 Midsummer Classic. Now, he's evidently going to be asked to vacate second base for the outfield in a city where Major League Baseball has been played for only one season since 1971. Last season.

"I didn't change positions when I came to Texas from the Yankees," Soriano said. "Why would I change now? I'm an All-Star at second base."

Good question. At that time, Rangers incumbent Michael Young was kind enough to vacate second base for Soriano. Young filled the void left at shortstop by A-Rod.

The Nationals right now don't have an independent owner. Their manager and coaching staff isn't under contract. When asked, Frank Robinson will have to decide whether to return under the current conditions.

Their second baseman, Jose Vidro, missed 73 games last season with injuries to his right knee and both quads. Right now, general manager Jim Bowden is not sure when Vidro will be ready to return, although there is the specter of Vidro's contract, which extends to 2008 at $8 million a year.

Soriano earned $7 million last season and is eligible for arbitration. He has one season to go before free agency. So at first blush, Bowden figures that moving Soriano is more expedient than moving Vidro.

"We all want to do certain things in life and we all don't get the exact positions we want sometimes," Bowden told MLB.com's Bill Ladson. "But you do what's best for your organization to try and win. When we get to that road, there will be unhappy people, but our job is to win. Our job is to have a team, not individuals. Baseball is a team sport. A lot could happen between now and Spring Training."

Presumably by then the Nationals will have a manager, if not a new owner. And it will be the on-field skipper's job to determine who plays where, not the general manager.

The fact that Major League Baseball hasn't divested itself of the club it has owned and operated since Feb. 15, 2002, has made this a strange postseason for that club.

On one hand, Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of World Series champion White Sox and the point man on the relocation committee trying to finalize the franchise sale, has been negotiating a lease for the Nationals to play in a yet-to-be-constructed ballpark. On the other, Commissioner Bud Selig has just about completed his visits with each of the eight ownership groups, leaving only the Jeff Smulyan contingent. And Selig is familiar enough with Smulyan from his days owning the Mariners.

If the Washington, D.C., City Council solidifies the $535 million ballpark lease and deal in its final meeting of the year on Dec. 20, Selig might then be able to select an ownership group in time for approval at the next quarterly owners' meeting on Jan. 18-19 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

If the Council doesn't vote in favor, there's no telling what will happen with the Nationals on the field next year.

Meanwhile, the Rangers are trying to retool once again under manager Buck Showalter, who has a 239-247 record and three lower-division finishes to show for his first three seasons as the Texas manager.

The deal that sent away Soriano leaves the Rangers with a plethora of outfielders. And common sense tells you that the Rangers are going to use some of those bodies to obtain much-needed pitching help.

"It's a step we needed to take and we are comfortable with the value we got in return, all things considered," Showalter said. "We'll see what avenues it opens to us."

But common sense doesn't always seem to prevail. Just ask Soriano, whose short baseball career has gone in another direction.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.