Soriano officially a member of Nats

Soriano officially a member of Nats

The trade that sent second baseman Alfonso Soriano from the Rangers to the Nationals in exchange for outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge, and Minor League pitcher Armando Galarraga became official on Tuesday morning.

The deal between the two clubs was first struck last Wednesday night at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas, but the announcement couldn't be made until Tuesday because the Rangers were waiting for Wilkerson to take a physical. Wilkerson went to the Bahamas for a long weekend before returning to take the exam on Monday.

With the Nationals finishing last in the Major Leagues in offense in 2005, Soriano is the power hitter and speedster Washington has been craving. He is expected to hit in the middle of a lineup that includes Jose Guillen, Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman.

In 2005, Soriano hit .268 with 36 home runs, 104 RBIs and 30 stolen bases for Texas. During his seven-year career, Soriano has a .280 average with 162 home runs, 465 RBIs and 169 stolen bases. He is best known for playing with the Yankees, appearing in the 2001 and 2003 World Series with the Bronx Bombers.

Soriano made $7 million in 2005 and is arbitration eligible. He is slated to make around $10 million in 2006. When ownership is in place, the Nationals are expected to work on giving Soriano a long-term deal. He is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the '06 season.

The big question is, which position will Soriano play next season? The Nationals want him to play left or center field, but Soriano said as recently as Tuesday night that he would like to remain at second base.

Soriano was told former All-Star Jose Vidro plays second base for the Nationals. When asked how he felt about the situation, Soriano said, "It's the problem of the team. They know they have Vidro and they [have me] at second base, too. That's not my problem. That's not Vidro's problem. That's the team's problem."

The Nationals did not talk to Soriano about the position switch in the last six days because of tampering issues. Now that the trade is complete, Washington is hoping that Jose Rijo, a special assistant to the general manager, and outfielder Jose Guillen, fellow natives of the Dominican Republic, can convince Soriano to play the outfield.

The Nationals have not ruled out Soriano playing second base as Vidro, who missed most of the second half of 2005 with knee and quadriceps problems, recovers from his injuries. Vidro was not available for comment about his health.

"A lot could happen between now and Spring Training," Bowden said in a conference call to reporters. "No final decision has been made on where Soriano is going to play. What has been decided is that he is going to hit in the middle of our lineup.

"We need to give him the respect that this is due to a three-time All-Star second baseman. We acknowledge that he has done a great job there. He is such a great athlete that he is able to play other positions. He could play center and he could play left. Players normally like the position they are playing and that's understandable. If we decide to move him, it will be because it's in the best interest of the name on the front of the jersey."

In other news, the Nationals are trying to get starting pitching, but Bowden said he is not entirely confident that he will land a frontline starting pitcher. The team has offers on the table to Kevin Millwood and Jarrod Washburn, and has shown interest in Shawn Estes, Pedro Astacio and Brett Tomko.

"We continue to work on it," said Bowden. "The market is such that it became a runaway train and at the end of the day, the GM of every club has to make difficult decisions. Pitching is a lot more expensive than it was three months ago."

For now, the Nationals are out of the running to acquire right-hander Javier Vazquez from the Diamondbacks. According to a baseball source, the Diamondbacks would like the Nationals to take on his entire salary, which is approximately $24 million.

Last week, the Nationals thought they had a deal that would have sent outfielder Ryan Church, Jamey Carroll and a Minor Leaguer to the Arizona for Vazquez, but the deal fell through.

Bowden also said he is in contract discussions with manager Frank Robinson.

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