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Nats Win, Soriano Watch Escalates

Ryan Zimmerman steals second base in the seventh inning, beating the throw to Cubs shortstop Ronny Cedeño. Zimmerman would later score on Derrek Lee's error to give the Nationals a 7-1 lead.
Ryan Zimmerman steals second base in the seventh inning, beating the throw to Cubs shortstop Ronny Cedeño. Zimmerman would later score on Derrek Lee's error to give the Nationals a 7-1 lead. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

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"All my six years in the big leagues, they always talk about trading me," Soriano said. "I want to, next year, have my contract -- or this year, whatever -- [with a] no-trade clause, because I want to control that part of the game."

Kasten, who ran the Atlanta Braves as well as the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, is not inclined to grant players such control.

"I've never in my career -- three teams, all these many seasons, [even with] all-stars, Hall of Famers -- no one has ever had a no-trade contract," Kasten said. "That's just a matter of history. . . . I have a philosophy about that. You can give a guy what you want, you can pay as much as you want. What you can't give away is your power to improve your club."

Which, of course, the Nationals desperately want to do, because they are well out of the race for the postseason and their farm system is bereft of what most scouts consider top-flight major league prospects. Soriano, in turn, is the only player on the roster who could, by himself, command two or three players who could help the Nationals win a division title in three or four seasons, when their roster overhaul could be complete.

"They have to decide what they want to do," one source close to the situation said yesterday. The source requested anonymity because both sides consider such talks to be private.

Soriano's performance, amidst this swirl, has been remarkable. He is hitting .457 with four homers in nine games since the all-star break, when the trade talk has been at its highest. He also just missed a pitch in the first, flying out to left, and drove a ball deep to center in the sixth.

"He could have very easily had three [homers] today," Manager Frank Robinson said.

The Cubs, though, came nowhere near such an output against Armas, who completed seven innings for only the second time this season. He was atypical Armas, throwing first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 24 batters he faced, sailing through five 1-2-3 innings, working ahead in the count nearly the whole way.

"He was aggressive and he was going right after them," catcher Brian Schneider said.

Which, from up in his box, is what General Manager Jim Bowden is doing with all the other teams -- being aggressive, trying to go right after prospects that could help his team in the long haul. Soriano is at the crux of those conversations, whether he wants to stay here or not.

Soriano, true to his wish to have as few distractions as possible, told Bentz not to call him with all the rumors he's hearing. "Just call me," he said, "when there's something important to say to me."


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