Kasten wants Soriano to stay

Kasten wants Soriano to stay

WASHINGTON -- Nationals president Stan Kasten told the media on Sunday that he has had discussions with left fielder Alfonso Soriano and agent Diego Bentz about Soriano staying with the Nationals beyond the 2006 season.

Kasten responded to an article in USA Today that quoted Bentz saying that the two parties have not talked.

"We have had numerous conversations, both Alfonso and I ... and Diego and I in a lot more depth and a lot more in number," Kasten said. "It's [been] going on awhile, at least a month. We've had a good long, number of conversations.

"We love Alfonso. We love what he does, lots of people do. Let's face it, he's a potential MVP candidate. It goes without saying that he's a superior player. But, you know, our No. 1 mission is [being the best] team we can as soon as possible."

Soriano and Bentz confirmed that conversations with Kasten took place, with Soriano reiterating how much he wants to stay with the team.

"We didn't talk about a contract," Soriano said about his conversation with Kasten. "We just talked about what they want to do with me. They know I'm very important to the team." That particular meeting took place on Thursday.

Neither Kasten nor Bentz would say whether money or contract language were mentioned in the talks, but, according to a source familiar with Bentz's thinking, the Soriano camp does not want to talk dollar figures and length of the contract until after the season.

"Does Alfonso need another distraction? There seems to be a race to the artificial clock," Bentz said on the telephone. "He loves Washington. He loves his teammates and playing for Frank Robinson. Stan has been great."

That artificial clock is the trade deadline of July 31, and it's likely that Soriano will be dealt, according to sources. The Nationals are looking for young prospects, pitchers in particular, for Soriano, and according to baseball sources, the Angels, Tigers, White Sox and Yankees are the frontrunners to acquire Soriano's services. There also have been reports that the Dodgers and Mariners also are in the mix.

Soriano is having one of the best seasons of his career. He is hitting .288 with 31 home runs, 62 RBIs and a career-high .361 on-base percentage.

Before the season started, the Nationals offered Soriano a five-year, $50-million extension, but it was turned down. During the All-Star break, Soriano said he would like to have a no-trade clause. He is getting tired of hearing about himself in trade rumors.

However, Kasten hinted that no player he has worked with in the Braves and Hawks organizations -- from Moses Malone to Greg Maddux -- has ever had such a deal.

"Two things have always been consistent -- this is history, this is not a prediction about the future -- I've never done incentives in a large contract, not even All-Star Games," Kasten said, "and I've never in my career [had some one get] a no-trade contract with any of my teams. Nobody never, ever has. That's just a matter of history."

In other news, the Nationals optioned infielder/outfielder Melvin Dorta to Double-A Harrisburg after Sunday's game. His stay lasted only three days. Washington is expected to reinstate infielder/outfielder Damian Jackson from the 15-day disabled list on Tuedsay.

Dorta made his Major League debut as a pinch-runner on Friday against the Cubs. He also went 0-for-1.

Jackson has missed 11 games since being placed on the 15-day DL on July 18, retroactive to July 8, with esophageal spasms. He is batting .210 with four homers and nine RBIs in 56 games for the Nationals.

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