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Alfonso Soriano (Alfonso Guilleard Soriano) was born on January 7, 1976 in San Pedro de Macoris, Macoris (Dominican Republic). He made his Major League debut on September 14, 1999 for the New York Yankees. In 2001, his rookie year, he hit .268 with 18 home runs and 73 RBI. Soriano played for the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, and Chicago Cubs over the course of his 8 year career.
Most people believe that Alfonso Soriano's best season was 2002, when he slugged 39 home runs, stole 41 bases, hit for a .300 average and knocked in 102 runs.
Soriano's career began in Japan with the Hiroshima Carp, training at their Carp Academy for Dominican players. In 1997, he was promoted briefly to the varsity team, and, wearing uniform number 74, he appeared in nine games, batting .181 (2 for 17) with two walks.
He signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees in 1998 and played in New York for five seasons. During his time with the Yankees, Soriano hit 98 home runs and 270 RBIs, hitting 39 and 38 of those home runs in the 2002 and 2003 seasons, respectively. In 2003 he set the record for most leadoff home runs in a season with 13. Many reporters have compared his combination of speed and power to that of a young Barry Bonds.
On May 8, 2004, Soriano had six hits in nine innings—the first Texas Ranger to do so—in a 16-15, 10-inning victory over the Detroit Tigers. (The game featured a bizarre, hour-long fifth inning, where Detroit scored eight runs in the top half of the inning to take a 10-run lead over the Rangers, only to see Texas score 10 runs in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game, the largest deficit ever overcome by the Rangers and tying a MLB record for most runs in an inning by two teams.) That same year, Soriano was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game as the starting second baseman. He hit a three-run home run off of Roger Clemens in the first inning and was named the MLB All-Star MVP.
On December 7, 2005, Soriano was traded to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge, and a minor league pitcher. The Nationals publicly announced that they planned to use Soriano as an outfielder because Soriano's natural position, second base, is filled by All-Star Jose Vidro. Soriano, however, stated that he would not play outfield (a statement he has made about the position throughout his entire career, probably because his offensive skills will earn him more money in free agency at second, a position at which sluggers are typically rare, than in the outfield, where offensive players of his caliber abound) and has requested a trade, preferably to an American League (AL) club. He also stated that at the end of the season, when he is a free agent, he will sign with an AL team that will let him play second base.
On February 10, 2006, Soriano set a record for the highest salary ever awarded in arbitration, receiving $10 million, even though he lost his request of $12 million. The previous high was set in 2001 by Andruw Jones of the Atlanta Braves when he earned $8.2 million.
On March 20, 2006, Nationals manager Frank Robinson wrote Soriano in the lineup to play left field. Soriano refused to take the field, and the Nationals organization has threatened him with disqualification, which would have meant forfeiture of his salary, and he would not have received credit for service time in fulfillment of the obligations of his contract. With his contract's service terms officially still unfulfilled, he would then not have been eligible for free agency at season's end.
Two days later, Soriano relented and played in left field for the Nationals in their exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Robinson indicated that he considers Soriano's move to left field to be permanent, and he would not consider moving Soriano back to second base at any point this season. His conversion to an outfielder is now complete, as he played center field in 2007 for the Chicago Cubs.
Soriano is one of the most aggressive hitters in the game. He has long arms and uses a large, heavy bat which allows him to reach any pitch regardless of location. He's an excellent fastball hitter and shows power to all fields. His aggressiveness is one of the knocks on him and he has a tendency to chase bad pitches, resulting in dismal on-base percentage totals.
Baserunning and Defense
Soriano is one of the more feared basestealers in the league. He has outstanding speed and excels at reading pitchers, allowing him to get big jumps and be a perennial 40-stolen base threat. He's a good baserunner but sometimes overestimates his speed and will run into outs on occasion.
Defensively, it didn't get any worse than Soriano at second base. The move to the outfield was inevitable and he's become serviceable, if not average, in left. His recognition and routes are both below average but his sheer speed allows him to outrun the ball and cover a lot of ground. His arm strength is a tick below average in left.
Soriano remains one of the more feared hitters in the league due to his ability to punish any pitch. It used to be that a steady diet of breaking balls would be enough to make Soriano consistently get himself out, but he's made adjustments on that front and has developed a small degree of discipline at the plate. He's a consistent 30/30 performer and a threat to go 40/40 in any given year.
- Sold by Hiroshima Toyo Carp (Japan Central) to New York Yankees (September 29, 1998).
- Traded by New York Yankees with a player to be named later to Texas Rangers in exchange for Alex Rodriguez and cash (February 16, 2004); Texas Rangers received Joaquin Arias (April 23, 2004).
- Traded by Texas Rangers to Washington Nationals in exchange for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga and Terrmel Sledge (December 8, 2005).
- Granted free agency (October 29, 2006).
- Signed by Chicago Cubs (November 20, 2006).