Soriano, Armas file for free agency

Nats' Soriano, Armas file for free agency

WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielder Alfonso Soriano and right-hander Tony Armas Jr. were two of 24 Major Leaguers who filed for free agency on Sunday. The Nationals' other three free agents -- catcher/first baseman Robert Fick, outfielder Jose Guillen and right-hander Ramon Ortiz -- have yet to file.

The Nationals have made it clear that they want Soriano back as their left fielder, but they are willing to take two draft picks -- a first rounder and sandwich pick in 2007 -- if Soriano decides to sign with another team.

"We love Alfonso, and we are certainly going to continue to explore having him back, but we have always known that if we didn't have him back, we would have two very, very important picks," team president Stan Kasten said early this week. "We need to build up our [farm] system. Either way, we feel very comfortable."

Kasten said by e-mail on Sunday that there was nothing new to report, and Soriano, his agent, Diego Bentz, and general manager Jim Bowden were not available for comment.

Soriano is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .277 with 46 home runs and 95 RBIs. He became the first charter member of the 40-40-40 (home runs, steals and doubles) club.

It was revealed during the season that Soriano would like to make more money than Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who signed for three years and $39 million last December. Soriano is looking for something in the range of five years for $80 million.

There was even talk of Soriano accepting a backloaded contract, but that remains to be seen if that would happen. The last time the organization offered a backloaded contract with a big-name player was after the 2003 season. Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero rejected a five-year, $75 million deal. Bentz was Guerrero's agent at the time.

According to reports out of the Dominican Republic, Jose Rijo, the special assistant to the general manager, told a radio station that Soriano rejected a five-year, $70 million offer from the Nationals, but Rijo and Kasten denied that report.

Armas, also Bentz's client, most likely will not come back to the Nationals. He was 9-12 with a 5.03 ERA in 2006. But if there are any positives out of his season, it's the fact that Armas didn't have any shoulder problems for the first time since 2002. He had a forearm problem in June, but he considered that a bump in the road.

In other news, as of Sunday afternoon, sources say the Nationals have not formally asked the Cardinals for permission to speak to third-base coach Jose Oquendo about their managerial vacancy. However, the Padres are expected to interview Oquendo for the position.

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