Nats' Offseason Focus Is Soriano, New Manager

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 5, 2006

The Washington Nationals have identified their two most important offseason decisions -- who to hire to replace ousted manager Frank Robinson, and whether to sign left fielder Alfonso Soriano. Team officials were apparently working on both fronts yesterday.

Soriano and his agent, Diego Bentz, were scheduled to meet with General Manager Jim Bowden and President Stan Kasten yesterday in Washington. Team officials, however, would not comment on the meeting. Soriano, reached by phone late yesterday evening as he was driving away from Washington, also declined to comment, and Bentz did not return messages.

The prospects for re-signing Soriano -- who hit 46 homers and stole 41 bases this season -- appear dim. The Nationals have said repeatedly that they must decide whether Soriano's salary -- projected to be around $15 million annually -- would be worth spending while trying to rebuild the team. Soriano, in turn, has said he wants to stay in Washington, but he has not indicated he would do so at a discount.

Meantime, the Nationals' search for a manager continued as well, and if they intend to move on former Florida manager Joe Girardi, they will have competition. The Chicago Cubs have contacted Girardi, as expected, about their open managerial position.

"Of course it excites you," Girardi told the Cubs' flagship radio station, WGN. "It's the Chicago Cubs, one of the richest traditions in baseball. Who wouldn't get excited to manage the Chicago Cubs?"

Whether the Nationals could compete with the emotional ties Girardi has to Chicago -- he grew up in Illinois and played parts of seven seasons with the Cubs -- remains to be seen. Team officials, however, were expected to look into the circumstances of Girardi's dismissal in Florida, which came after a season in which the Marlins exceeded expectations.

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