By Bruce Miles
The Cubs got plenty of cooperation from Alfonso Soriano, and without it they wouldn't have been able to trade him to the New York Yankees on Friday.
Because of that, Cubs president Theo Epstein is just as happy to have no more situations where players call the shots on trades.
Even so, Epstein praised Soriano for his role in agreeing to be sent to the Yankees in exchange for Class A pitching prospect Corey Black.
"He was very cooperative throughout the process and, frankly, that's what allowed the trade to be made," Epstein said Friday. "Anytime a player has 10-and-5 rights, he can dictate really all of the circumstances of the deal, from whether there will be one in the first place to where he'll go to other factors that pop up during the course of the trade and other issues that have to be worked through.
"That's what took so long over the last couple of days, but I think as far as these things go, this one was relatively seamless. We were able to monitor the market and give him an idea of what teams might be interested.
"He was open-minded about it when we explained why we thought it was the right time why we thought it was good for him and good for the Cubs."
Soriano was the last big holdover from the previous ownership and baseball regime. He was in the seventh season of an eight-year, $136 million contract. The Yankees will pick up about $6.8 million of the remaining money on Soriano's contract, and that represents a victory for the Cubs.
Former general manager Jim Hendry gave Soriano a full no-trade clause in the contract, but beginning with the 2012 season Soriano had no-trade rights as a player with at least 10 years of major-league service and at least five with the same club.
"Obviously, from a club's standpoint, you'd prefer to have ultimate flexibility," Epstein said. "You'd prefer not have any no-trade clauses or any players with 10-5 rights, but you have some from time to time on your roster.
"It's just something you have to work around, when moving that particular player is something that's in the organization's best interests. But I don't think it's a watershed moment or a transformative moment at all."
No conversation about Soriano was complete without mention of his contract. Much also was made about the so-called deficiencies in his game. But Soriano was among the most popular Cubs among his peers, if not the fans, and Epstein noted that.
"My lasting impression was someone who was well-respected and well-liked by his teammates," Epstein said. "When I came here, for some reason, I was under the impression that he would be a negative in the clubhouse and someone who's out for himself and someone who didn't play the game hard all the time.
"I was quickly disavowed of that notion. We asked him to work on the defense. We asked him to run the bases hard. We asked him to run balls out. We asked him to be a good example for the younger players.
"We asked him to always play the game hard and to try to win the fans back over and be a leader in the clubhouse. He said, 'OK,' and he went out and he did it.
"It was really remarkable to watch him rehabilitate his reputation. I don't think he ever lost it, but at least with the new players, just to watch him earn their respect so quickly was really remarkable."
Soriano leaves the Cubs with 181 home runs, placing him 11th on the team's all-time list. To replace Soriano on the roster, the Cubs selected the contract of right-handed reliever Eduardo Sanchez from Class AAA Iowa. Soriano batted cleanup in the Yankees' lineup Friday night against Tampa Bay.
In Black, the Cubs are getting a pitcher who was 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA at Class A Tampa. He was a fourth-round pick of the Yankees in 2012 out of Faulkner University. The Cubs project him as a relief pitcher, with Epstein comparing him to White Sox reliever Jesse Crain.
"He's a shorter guy with a big-time arm," Epstein said. "He pitches in the mid-90s (mph). He can get it up there in the upper-90s, touched 100. We had two of our better scouts see him earlier in the year, and they both liked him.
"They both projected his future to be in the bullpen. One comped him to a Jesse Crain-type pitcher with a chance to have an overpowering fastball with a plus breaking ball.
"He's got a deceptive, max-effort delivery with an explosive fastball, and it's hard for hitters to pick up. I think we project the slider as ultimately his primary breaking ball, and he's got a changeup as well.
"I think he projects right now as a power reliever down the line."