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Alfonso Soriano’s days with the Cubs might be numbered

Chicago White Sox Vs Chicago Cubs. Chicago Cubs No.12 Alfonso Soriano hugs White Sox Manager No.33 RobVentura. Tuesday evening June

Chicago White Sox Vs Chicago Cubs. Chicago Cubs No.12 Alfonso Soriano hugs White Sox Manager No.33 Robin Ventura. Tuesday evening June 19, 2012 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 21, 2012 6:30AM

Don’t look now, but left fielder Alfonso Soriano might be the Cubs’ All-Star in a few weeks. And don’t blink because he might be gone nearly as quickly.

The Cubs might not find a better trade market for Soriano, 36, in the 2½ years left on his mega-contract. And his value might never get stronger than it is now, with his home-run production since May 15 unsurpassed by anybody in the majors.

Soriano knows it, and his teammates know it. And as long as a trade offers him a chance to win a cham-
pionship, he says he’ll approve it.

So is it finally time to get over the $136 million contract that has made Soriano a lightning rod among Wrigley Field fans for more than five seasons? Teammates have been especially outspoken about the way fans continue to look at Soriano, who is as respected and popular a player as they have in the clubhouse.

That has been especially true with the way he noticeably has
improved his defense this season despite dealing with an injury to his left knee.

‘‘I get pissed off when the fans treat him the way they do,’’ right-hander Matt Garza said Monday, referring to the reaction Saturday after Soriano stopped in the batter’s box after lining a shot to third that inexplicably was dropped. ‘‘That’s freaking ridiculous.’’

Soriano still shakes his head at the fan reaction, knowing he reacted like almost any player in the game would have on a play like that.

‘‘I can’t worry about what the fans think,’’ he said. ‘‘I just have to keep playing and trying to win.’’

If it’s time to gwet over the contract, maybe it’s also time Soriano gets a shot at helping a contender. The Cubs already signaled the next phase of their construction project this week by using the designated hitter in their series against the White Sox to replace Soriano with Tony Campana in left, put Bryan LaHair in right and slide David DeJesus to center.

It’s not only a preview of the new alignment the Cubs will feature when top prospect Anthony Rizzo is installed at first base in the coming days, but it’s a preview of the different directions Soriano and the Cubs’ left-field spot are headed.

After hitting another long homer Monday as the DH, Soriano’s stock as an American League player continues to strengthen. In 20 career games as a DH, he has a .381 average with seven homers, 19 RBI and a 1.219 OPS. Not that being a full-time DH for the rest of the season — or the rest of his contract — is something he relishes.

‘‘I can do both,’’ he said, dismissing the assumption he might be able to put up bigger numbers in the DH role than in left. ‘‘It might help to not go on the DL, but I don’t know about the numbers.’’

He also said leaving the Cubs isn’t his first choice.

‘‘My first choice is to try to win here,’’ Soriano said. ‘‘It depends on them. I feel comfortable here. I like the city, and I signed here to be a champion here. So I hope that when they get some good prospects and they have the idea to make the team a contender, I’d like to be a part of this team. Because I’m here to win.’’

Of course, with only two years left on his contract after this season, that doesn’t leave much time for him to be involved. And in this era of declining power numbers, Soriano almost certainly would help an AL contender.

‘‘It goes both ways because I don’t want to be miserable,’’ Sori-
ano said. ‘‘I don’t want to have a long summer or a long season. I just want to win, no matter what. If it’s here, I’m more than happy. If it’s not here, if they think they want to take longer than two or three years, then my contract’s done. . . .

‘‘But it has to be a very good team to go to because I don’t want to go be miserable on the other team, too.’’

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