Soriano says wanting to win led to exit

Soriano says wanting to win led to exit

WASHINGTON -- Left fielder Alfonso Soriano said on Monday that remaining with the Nationals was his top priority, but he decided to sign an eight-year, $136 million contract with the Cubs instead. It's the fifth-richest contract in Major League history. As part of the deal, Soriano received a no-trade clause.

Soriano said he picked Chicago because of the conversations he had with general manager Jim Hendry and manager Lou Piniella about the Cubs' future.

"I want to win. I love the city, and I love the fans in Chicago, too," Soriano said during a conference call.

Those words were similar about playing Washington, D.C., but something changed during the offseason.

"[The Nats' front office] never called. I had a good time in Washington, but now I'm part of the Chicago Cubs," he said. "Everybody knows that I had a good time in Washington, but they never said anything to me. After two weeks, I waited. They didn't call. They didn't say anything, so I had to move."

In his only season with the Nationals, Soriano hit .277 with 46 home runs and 95 RBIs. He became the first member of the 40-40-40 (home runs, steals and doubles) club. The switch from second to left field worked out well for Soriano and the Nationals, as he led the Major Leagues in outfield assists with 22 and was the National League's starting left fielder in the All-Star Game.

Soriano also put a zip on all the critics who claimed it was difficult to hit home runs at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. He hit 24 out of the park. For his efforts, Soriano finished sixth in the National League MVP voting.

Two days after the season ended, Soriano was scheduled to meet with the Nationals' front office to possibly talk about a contract extension, but a baseball source said the meeting never materialized. However, Soriano said the meeting, indeed, took place. It lasted between 30-45 minutes. General manager Jim Bowden was not available for comment.

Soriano claims money was not the reason he left the Nationals. Winning and not playing in the postseason the last three years were the major factors.

"I played my first three years with the Yankees, and I love to win," Soriano said. "The last three years, I missed going to the playoffs. And I think, in Chicago, we have a better chance to go to the playoffs and go to the World Series, too."

In other news, according to baseball sources, the Nationals are not happy that outfielder Ryan Church declined to play in the Mexican Winter League this offseason. His decision could possibly hurt his chances of competing with Kory Casto for the starting left-field job vacated by Soriano.

The Nationals wanted Church to go to Mexico to learn how to hit slow breaking balls on the outside part of the plate. The Mexican Winter League is considered a breaking-ball league. Church did, however, work with visualization specialist Bill Harrison on tracking the baseball.

When reached by phone on Sunday night, Church declined to say why he didn't go to Mexico. But, on Monday, agent Jeff Borris said he advised his client not to go because he nothing more to prove in Mexico and should be given a chance to start with the Nationals. Borris pointed that in the last two seasons in the Major Leagues, Church hit a combined . 282 (131-for-464) with 19 home runs 76 RBIs.

In 2006, Church had an up-and-down season, spending half the time in the Minor Leagues. But he finished strong, hitting .276 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs.

"He finished the season strong, and he had nothing to prove in [Mexico] and [the Nationals] were going to put somebody in his spot anyway. So, I didn't think it was appropriate for him to go down there," Borris said. "[Church] has played sporadically up and down during a two-year period. Those numbers would warrant him getting an everyday job."

Asked if he and Church were upset with the Nationals, Borris said, "I wouldn't use the word upset, I just think that Ryan has earned a chance to be given a starting outfield job and [see] what type of number he could put up in a full season."

Bowden was not available for comment.

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