Soriano stays put as deadline passes

Soriano stays put as deadline passes

SAN FRANCISCO -- Believing that they can work out a long-term contract with Alfonso Soriano and not impressed with the assortment of offers for their All-Star left fielder, the Nationals decided not to make a move at the 4 p.m. ET trade deadline on Monday.

The Nationals made two moves before the deadline, acquiring Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez from the Reds on July 13 and trading reliever Mike Stanton to the Giants for Minor League prospect Shairon Martis on Friday.

Soriano, who has quickly become a fan favorite in Washington, was considered the biggest prize heading into the non-waivers deadline. Entering Monday's action, he was hitting .286 with 32 home runs and 26 stolen bases.

Twenty minutes before the deadline, Soriano was told by Jose Rijo, the special assistant to the general manager, that he would not be traded. Once the deadline passed, Soriano had a brief meeting with general manager Jim Bowden and team president Stan Kasten.

"Our organization is set on building a world championship club, and that means every decision we make is heading in that direction. We felt that the best deal we could make was no deal for the franchise," Bowden said. "We consider Alfonso one of the best players in baseball. He's a player that wants to stay in D.C. and did not want to be traded. He wants to stay here long-term.

"When you don't do a deal like this, obviously, your intention is to sign him. Our organization, led by Stan, has been involved in negotiations, and we will continue to discuss. You never know how it's gong to end up. But it's certainly clear that Alfonso wants to be here."

Soriano said that he was relieved to learn that he was staying with the Nationals. He woke up around 11 a.m. PT on Monday and heard all of the trade rumors about him on TV. But he had a feeling that he would stay with the Nationals.

"I'm happy, because the rumors are done," Soriano said. "It's more easy for me to focus and play every day. It has passed. I would like [to be here] long-term and be part of this group. There are two months left. I hope this team plays better, and let's see what happens."

For weeks, it appeared that Soriano was going to be traded because his agent, Diego Bentz, was not interested in negotiating a contract until after the season. But the tide turned last week, according to sources, when Rijo got involved in the negotiations and Soriano reiterated to members of the Nationals' front office that he wanted to stay with the club. Rijo traveled with the club to Los Angeles and San Francisco, but he declined to comment to

According to two sources who requested anonymity, Soriano would like to make more money than Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who signed for three years and $39 million last December. Soriano is looking for something in the range of five years, $80 million. The sources believe that Soriano is willing to backload the contract, realizing that that the Nationals are looking to build for the long-term future of the franchise.

However the key to the entire scenario is Bentz. In the past, it appeared that Bentz called all the shots regarding contract negotiations. Soriano always insisted that the team has to talk to Bentz, but Kasten seems to think that Soriano is the boss on this matter.

"I hope that's not true, because that is exactly backwards," Kasten said. "Alfonso makes his own decisions, and whoever he employs, works for him, hopefully, doing the best he can for him pursuant to his wishes. Never, ever let that relationship be distorted. Remember, agents work for players, never the other way around."

Bentz was not available for comment after several calls were placed to his office.

The Nationals also weren't interested in the offers they were getting from other clubs. As one source said on Saturday, "We would lose our jobs [in the future] if we made some of these deals."

The White Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Angels, Cardinals, Dodgers, Mariners, Athletics, Astros, Twins and Marlins all inquired about Soriano, but it is believed that none of those teams, except for the Marlins, was willing to give up good enough prospects to acquire Soriano.

The Marlins were reportedly willing to give up left-handers Renyel Pinto and Jason Vargas to the Nationals.

According to a source, the Rockies were approached at the last minute, but they didn't have a position for Soriano to play, and they didn't want him to play second base or left field.

"The whole process was very fluid," Bowden said. "The teams were changing. The players involved were changing. It was a never-ending process. You don't know where it's going to end up. But at the end of the day, it was a simple decision from all of us, that keeping Alfonso Soriano was the best thing for the Washington Nationals and the city of Washington."

Lost in the Soriano trade rumors was the fact that right-handers Livan Hernandez, Tony Armas Jr. and Ramon Ortiz were not traded. No team was willing to give up a top prospect for them.

A source said that Armas was close to being traded to "an East Coast team," but Armas' subpar outing against the Dodgers on Friday may have contributed to the deal falling through.

The Mets were the front-runners to land Hernandez's services, but they were not willing to give up outfield prospect Lastings Milledge to get the deal done.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.