NEW YORK – The New York Yankees acquired Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs on Friday, bringing back the seven-time All-Star to give a power boost to a team that desperately needs more pop.
Soriano immediately went into the starting lineup, batting cleanup and playing left field against Tampa Bay. The Cubs got minor league pitcher Corey Black and are also sending almost $17.7 million to the Yankees to cover the rest of Soriano's rich contract.
"We've obviously been trying to improve our offense this season, to no avail," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "By far, he was the best available bat to date."
Soriano outhomered the Yankees all by himself (10-8) in the four weeks prior to the deal. Overall, the 37-year-old was hitting .254 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs with the Cubs.
The Yankees led the majors with 245 home runs last year, but rank next-to-last in the AL this season with only 88. Banged up, they've played most of the year without Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Their slump from the right side — Soriano hits righty — is even more acute. It's been a month since a right-hander homered for the Yankees, with Jayson Nix the last to do it on June 25.
Soriano made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1999 and quickly blossomed into a rare package of speed and power. In 2002, he hit 39 homers and 51 doubles while batting .300, stealing 41 bases, scoring 128 runs and driving in 102.
"He's not the same player he used to be," Cashman said, "but he certainly provides some thunder from the right side that we've been lacking."
Cashman hinted, too, that more deals might be in the works.
The Yankees began the day with a 54-48 record and in fourth place in the AL East, 6˝ games behind division-leading Boston.
"It's been a struggle to score runs," manager Joe Girardi said about a half-hour before the trade was announced. "We're looking for run producers and guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Soriano got his old No. 12, with Vernon Wells shifting to No. 22. The Yankees optioned outfielder Thomas Neal to Triple-A to make room for Soriano.
Soriano waived his no-trade clause to rejoin his old team. Always smiling, he was popular with teammates and fans for five seasons before New York traded him to Texas in a deal for Rodriguez.
"He's played there before," Granderson said earlier in the day at the team's spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. "That's one thing that is a difficult thing to adjust to."
"You've got to come to New York and can you handle it, can you not? Obviously he had in the past," he said.
Soriano has never played a regular-season game at the new Yankee Stadium. He did, however, hit a home run in his lone game at the ballpark — in April 2009, the Cubs played a pair of exhibition games at Yankee Stadium before the official opener.
Soriano has hit 389 career home runs while playing for the Yankees, Texas, Washington and the Cubs.
In the 2001 World Series, Soriano hit a home run that almost became part of the Yankees' lore. His go-ahead shot in the eighth inning off Curt Schilling in Game 7 put New York close to another championship, but Arizona rallied in the ninth to win it.
A free swinger, Soriano is known more for power than getting on base. He's drawn just 15 walks in 93 games this season.
The deal was the latest move for the Cubs before the July 31 deadline for trades without waivers. This month, they traded pitcher Matt Garza to Texas and pitcher Scott Feldman to Baltimore.
Chicago was fourth in the NL Central at 45-55.
The 21-year-old Black was 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA in 19 starts for Class A Tampa. The right-hander is averaging 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full pro season.
"It's not where I want it to be at all. We've been working on a lot of mechanical stuff and trying to calm things down, stuff like that. I'm just trying to strive to get better every day," Black said as he left Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.
Black said he will report to Class A Daytona.
"It's an opportunity for me to play somewhere else. All I've ever wanted to do is play baseball no matter what team it's for. It's still the same game," he said.
Chicago will pay $17,688,524 of the $24,491,803 remaining on Soriano's $136 million, eight-year contract.
The Yankees will pay at a prorated rate of $5 million for this year's $18 million salary, which comes to $6,803,279, and $5 million of Soriano's $18 million salary in 2014, the final season of the deal.
"I think he's a great addition. One of my favorite teammates of all-time," said Teixeira, who played with Soriano in Texas in 2004-05. "He's like Robinson Cano. He's one of those guys that's always happy, loves playing the game, is an incredible talent."
"I love the move. We need a right-handed bat, obviously. We need that thump. We need to score a few more runs, and he's one of those guys that can beat you with one swing," he said.
Soriano needs 11 hits to reach 2,000 lifetime. His career leadoff home runs are second most in history to Rickey Henderson's 81.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum and AP freelancer Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.