Alfonso Soriano's Cubs career appears to be over.
The first telltale sign came Thursday, when Soriano was a late lineup scratch from the Cubs' 3-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix.
According to several published reports early Friday, the Yankees and the Cubs agreed to a deal. The Yankees, according to a club official involved in the trade talks who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because the deal is not finalized, will send a Class A pitching prospect to Chicago for Soriano. The Cubs, in exchange, have agreed to pay the bulk of Soriano's $18 million salary in 2014.
Friday afternoon, the Cubs confirmed they acquired minor league right-handed pitcher Corey Black from the New York Yankees for outfielder Soriano.
Black, 21, was selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft out of Faulkner University. In 2013, his first full professional season, Black is 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA (39 ER/82.2 IP) in 19 starts with single-A Tampa. The right-hander has allowed only two home runs in 82.2 innings, an average of one home run every 41.1 innings, while recording 88 strikeouts, an average of 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He is limiting opposing hitters to a .243 batting average, including a .169 mark by lefties and a .285 mark by righties. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Black has gone 2-2 with a 3.57 ERA (16 ER/40.1 IP) in his last 10 starts beginning May 24. He has allowed one earned run or zero earned runs in seven of those 10 outings.
The USA Today report said Soriano took a red-eye flight Thursday night to New York and is expected to be in the Yankees' starting lineup Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Soriano rarely, if ever, wants days off, and Thursday's was the second in two days. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Soriano apparently got word from team president Theo Epstein to yank Soriano because a trade with the New York Yankees was imminent.
"Theo called and said it was pretty close to being done," Sveum told reporters. "So we're better off not playing him."
While MLB officials still must approve the deal, Soriano had the final say because he has so-called 10-and-5 rights under baseball's collective-bargaining agreement as a player with at least 10 years of major-league service and five with one club. As such, he had veto power over any trade involving him, but he told reporters he'd OK a trade to the Yankees.
Soriano signed an eight-year, $136 million contract with the Cubs in November 2006. He is collecting $18 million this year and will get $18 million more next year. The Cubs likely will pick up most -- perhaps all but $5 million to $8 million -- of the remaining $24 million-$25 million left on the deal.
The 37-year-old Soriano has been on a hot streak lately. He entered Thursday with a hitting line of .254/.287/.467 with a team-high 17 home runs. His 51 RBI were second on the team to Anthony Rizzo's 58. Soriano also had a team-leading 10 stolen bases.
"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 of Yankee Stadium. "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.
"He's put together a pretty good run. Last year at 36 years old, he hit 32 (homers) and drove in 108. That's a legacy in itself."
Soriano began his major-league career with the Yankees in 1999, playing for them through 2003. He appeared in two World Series for the Yankees. In 2004, he was sent to the Texas Rangers in a deal that brought Alex Rodriguez to New York. The Rangers traded him to the Washington Nationals before the 2006 season.
Soriano signed his big deal with the Cubs in November 2006, as the team was coming off a last-place finish. The Cubs made the postseason in both 2007 and 2008, but failed to win a playoff game. Soriano batted .143 against Arizona in the 2007 division series and .071 against the Dodgers in the '08 division series and became symbolic of the Cubs' failure in the postseason.
If this the end in Chicago for Soriano, he leaves with a line of .264/.317/.495 with 181 home runs entering Thursday. His home run total with the Cubs ranks 11th on the team's all-time list, ahead of Derrek Lee's 179 and behind Hack Wilson's 190.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.