PHOENIX – Alfonso Soriano was scratched from the Cubs lineup Thursday pending the official announcement of a deal to the New York Yankees.
Manager Dale Sveum confirmed the news before Thursday’s game, saying the deal a “99 percent done.”
The Cubs are expected to receive a Class-A pitcher and pay most of the remainder of Soriano’s contract, which runs through 2014. Soriano is owed $6 million in 2013 and $18 million in 2014.
“Theo [Epstein] called and said it was pretty close to being done,” Sveum said. “So we’re better off not playing him.”
The Cubs gave Soriano a couple of days to make up his mind on waiving his no-trade rights, and Soriano decided Thursday morning to go to the Yankees.
Soriano was taking batting practice in the indoor cage, and was unavailable for comment.
Sveum said he grew to appreciate Soriano as soon as he became the Cubs manager, after not knowing anything about his work ethic before.
“He’s 100 percent completely different than [what] I thought,” Sveum said. “There hasn’t been a day of disappointment in his attitude, his work ethic, and what he brings, and his professionalism has been off the charts.”
Sveum said he’ll probably “mix-and-match” in left field with Soriano gone. Junior Lake will play left against right-handers, and center against left-handers. It will more difficult to replace him in the clubhouse.
“You don’t replace that,’ Sveum said. “Hopefully down the road you do, but you certainly don’t have a band-aid right now.”
Soriano will likely split time between left field and DH for injury-riddled New York, and finish his career in the same place it began in 1999.
“He’s been there before, and he’s performed in that atmosphere,” Sveum said. “Obviously [the Yankees have] had a lot of injuries, and he’s a guy that can fill a void for them.”
Soriano signed an 8-year, $136 million deal during the winter of 2006, giving the Cubs a marquee player in what turned out to be an unprecedented spending spree by the Cubs. The deal capped a frenzied week in which general manager Jim Hendry shelled out nearly $229 million to Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Mark DeRosa, Henry Blanco and Kerry Wood, trying to change the perception of the organization.
Soriano also received the no-trade clause he asked for, as the Cubs leapfrogged the Angels, Phillies and Astros before a major bidding war erupted. The offer originally was six years, before the Cubs added two more years at the last minute to trump the competition.
Soriano wound up with the biggest contract in Cubs history – and the fifth-largest in baseball history.
Epstein called Sveum at the ballpark about 4 p.m. and told him that a deal was almost completed. Soriano had been scheduled to play left and bat fourth.