Cubs receive 2012 fourth-rounder Black in exchange for slugging outfielder
PHOENIX -- Alfonso Soriano is officially headed back to the Yankees, where he began his Major League career.
A deal sending Soriano from the Cubs to New York, which was set in motion on Thursday night, was finalized a few hours before the Yankees' series opener against the Rays on Friday night. In addition to Soriano, Chicago sends cash considerations to the Yankees in exchange for right-hander Corey Black, New York's fourth-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
According to the YES Network's Twitter account, Soriano is in Friday's Yankees starting lineup, batting cleanup and playing left field. Soriano, who wore No. 12 in his first stint with the Yankees, will don the same number, which had been worn by Vernon Wells prior to the deal. Wells will now wear No. 22.
Black has posted a 4.25 ERA in 19 starts for Class A Advanced Tampa this season, striking out 88 batters and walking 45 in 82 2/3 innings. Across three levels last season, the righty had a 3.08 ERA over 52 2/3 innings.
Soriano was originally in the Cubs' starting lineup on Thursday for the series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called manager Dale Sveum and asked him to pull the 37-year-old outfielder, saying a deal was "99 percent" completed.
Major League Baseball had to review the financial terms of the deal before the trade could be completed.
The Cubs will pick up $17.7 million of the $24.5 million remaining on Soriano's contract. The Yankees will pay $5 million of the $18 million owed Soriano next year.
Cubs players were visibly upset at the news that Soriano was leaving. The seven-time All-Star was a mentor to some of the young players, such as Starlin Castro, Junior Lake and Luis Valbuena.
Prospect acquired by Cubs
Corey Black, RHP: Black began his college career at San Diego State, where he was recruited as a two-way player. He eventually gave up hitting and transferred to Faulkner State, an NAIA school in Alabama, for his junior season. Black's power arsenal stood out there and the Yankees selected him in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft. Black throws his fastball in the mid-90s with some sink and has touched 100 mph. He also throws a changeup, slider and curveball. None of Black's offspeed pitches is as advanced as his fastball, but that hasn't stopped him from striking out 138 batters in 135 innings as a professional at the time of the trade. His command still needs improvement, and he has walked 45 batters in 82 2/3 innings this season. Listed at 5-foot-11, Black doesn't have ideal size for a right-hander, and he underwent Tommy John surgery as a high school junior. He has spent his first full professional season at Class A Advanced Tampa as a starter, but some scouts think he will fit better into a Major League bullpen.
The Yankees were 6 1/2 games back in the American League East entering Friday's action. Can Soriano help the Yankees? He began his Major League career with them in 1999 and played with them through 2003, leading the AL in runs and hits in 2002.
"He's been a productive player over his career, there's no doubt about it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's been an exciting player, a guy that could steal 40 bases, a guy that could hit 40 home runs. He's been a good player."
"He had a lot of power, stole a lot of bases. Sori did a lot when he was here. He was pretty exciting," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said.
"He's going to a place that is obviously one of the better stadiums, and he's been there before and has performed in that atmosphere before," Sveum said. "Obviously, they've had a lot of injuries, and he's the guy who can fill that void as [designated hitter] and in left field."
Soriano has hit 10 home runs in his last 21 games and was batting .286 in that stretch with six doubles, 21 RBIs and a 1.044 OPS, dating to June 28. He has homered in five of his last 14 games and ranks seventh among active players in career home runs with 389.
"He's put together a pretty good run," Sveum said. "Last year at 36 years old, he hit 32 [home runs] and drove in 108 [runs]. That's a legacy in itself. He's a guy who when he's on the field, he's lived up to his media guide, so to speak, besides the stolen bases he's had in his career early."
This was Sveum's second season with Soriano, and he was impressed with his professionalism.
"He's 100 percent completely different than I thought," Sveum said. "There hasn't been a day of disappointment in his attitude, his work ethic, what he brings to younger players and his professionalism has been off the charts."
Soriano signed the most lucrative deal ever given in Cubs' franchise history, eight years, $136 million, in November 2006.
"It's a big contract, but that's not my goal," Soriano said when he inked the deal. "My goal is to play hard and give you a championship. It's not about the contract, it's about the city and the fans here."
The Cubs won the Central Division that season but not a championship. And they repeated as Central champs in '08. Chicago failed to make the playoffs after that, and lost 101 games last season for the first time since 1966. If the team had won, Soriano's contract most likely wouldn't have been criticized by fans as much as it has.
"There's no doubt, he's one of the top five ultimate professionals I've been around in this game," Sveum said.
On Tuesday night, Epstein and Sveum met with Soriano to go over his options, and Soriano said he gave Epstein a list of teams he would consider.
"The Yankees are on the list," Soriano said.
Soriano did not play Wednesday to give him time to think about his options.
"You sit back, and you're like, 'Well, he's going to a place he's been and is comfortable,'" Sveum said. "Obviously, he accepted [the trade]. It's something he felt is right at this time for his family and in his career, and being part of a pennant race."
Soriano left the Yankees when he was traded to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez prior to the 2004 season. Jeter and Mariano Rivera were his teammates then, and Robinson Cano lives in the same town as Soriano in the Dominican Republic. Soriano could end his career back where he started.
"Everybody knows how I feel about Sori," Jeter said. "I said it when we traded for Al -- he's someone that you develop a relationship with and you miss them when they leave. We had a great relationship."
The Cubs have already made five trades in July, including Monday's deal that sent Matt Garza to the Rangers for five prospects.
Epstein used the meeting to thank Soriano for how he's mentored some of the younger players.
"Sometimes there's a natural time to move on, to clear opportunities for younger players, to get Sori into a pennant race and play every day," Epstein said Wednesday. "We just wanted to outline it [in the meeting]. It seems like it might be an appropriate time if he is going to move on to do it now. We can keep Lake in the lineup a little bit while he's hot. We've got [David] DeJesus coming back from the DL, we've got [Brian] Bogusevic and [Ryan] Sweeney coming back. We're looking to give opportunities for young players."