Rumors of the Chicago Cubs trading outfielder Alfonso Soriano to the New York Yankees have been rumbling for days. Now, the deal is oh-so-close to being official.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters before Thursday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks that the trade was "99 percent" done. Soriano was scratched from the Cubs lineup in anticipation of the deal being completed.
However, minor details — mostly paperwork — may prevent the trade from becoming official until Friday. Soriano has to formally waive his no-trade clause and "10-and-five" rights (10 years in the major leagues, five with the same team) that allowed him to veto any deal. MLB has to receive that documentation as well.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Cubs and Yankees have agreed on the pitching prospect that will go to Chicago in exchange for Soriano. It's believed the Cubs will get a Single-A pitcher in the deal. The Trentonian's Josh Norris, who covers the Yankees' Double-A afilliate, tweeted that 21-year-old right-hander Corey Black could be that pitcher. In 19 starts for Single-A Tampa this season, Black has a 3-8 record and 4.25 ERA with 88 strikeouts (and 45 walks) in 82.2 innings.
According to the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, the Cubs had given Soriano a couple of days to decide whether or not to accept a trade to the Yankees. But the 37-year-old veteran decided to rejoin his former team on Thursday morning.
Though Soriano's .254 average and .754 OPS might not look impressive overall, he's been bringing the power in July. For the month, Soriano has eight home runs and is slugging .927 in 77 plate appearances. Those numbers are why the Yankees want him. The Yanks have hit seven home runs as a team in July, fewest in the American League.
Additionally, Soriano will provide a desperately needed right-handed bat. The Yankees' right-handed hitters have a collective .221 average, second-to-last in MLB. Their .594 OPS is dead last in baseball.
As you might expect, that's made Joe Girardi's club ineffective against left-handed pitching. As a team, the Yankees have a .235 average and .647 OPS versus lefties, which ranks them 28th out of 30 MLB teams. That performance has to improve for the Yankees to continue contending in the AL East.
Soriano is owed approximately $25 million on his contract through 2014. That was believed to be the main obstacle in the Cubs trading him, as few teams seemed willing to add that kind of payroll.
But the Cubs are expected to pay the majority of Soriano's salary, possibly as much as $20 million. That is surely an important consideration for the Yankees, who still want their payroll to be under the $189 million luxury tax threshold for 2014.
Considering that the Cubs will pay most of Soriano's remaining contract, shedding his salary wasn't an important factor in making this trade. The Cubs want to take a long look at outfielder Junior Lake, who's been extremely productive since being called up on July 18. In 29 plate appearances, the 23-year-old has a .519 average (14-for-27) and 1.388 OPS with two homers and five RBI. That's a small sample size to judge, but the Cubs certainly like what they've seen so far.
Soriano joins Scott Feldman and Matt Garza as veteran players the Cubs have traded for prospects in team president Theo Epstein's rebuilding project. Outfielder Nate Schierholtz could be the next to go, according to the latest rumors, with the Pittsburgh Pirates showing interest.