Originally in the lineup for tonight, Theo Epstein reportedly has told Dale Sveum to pull Alfonso Soriano because a trade is close. We’ve been following this for days now, and it has seemed like Soriano to the Yankees was an inevitability for a while.
We’ll keep following as the details come down.
UPDATE: Sveum told the media that the deal is 99% done, which is not a lock, but is obviously enough to get Soriano out of the lineup.
UPDATE 2 (6:45pm CT): Just a thought – Alfonso Soriano deserves to be applauded on the way out of town. Whatever you think of the contract, he worked hard and led by example. He was a huge part of the 2007 and 2008 teams, which is what he was brought in to be. From there, he worked his ass off and helped mold the Cubs’ young players. The Cubs are ready to move on, as they should, but he’ll be missed.
UPDATE 3 (6:53pm CT): Buster Olney reports that it’s a “lower-tier pitching prospect” coming to the Cubs, assuming the deal is completed. It will be interesting to see how much salary the Cubs are eating if that’s the case.
UPDATE 4 (6:57pm CT): Olney adds that the Cubs are eating the “bulk” of the $25 million remaining on Soriano’s deal. To me, that simply doesn’t comport with “lower-tier pitching prospect,” but we’ll get there when we get there.
UPDATE 5 (7:07pm CT): One more from Olney: “The bottom line on any Soriano deal: Epstein/Hoyer have had their hands tied by his no-trade clause. Any salary relief would be good.” What Olney is suggesting is that the Cubs ran into a bit of a Dempster situation – albeit a quieter one – where Soriano pretty much wanted to go to the Yankees, and that was that. Emphasis: we don’t know that for sure, but that’s what Olney is suggesting. My response? Unlike with Dempster, where you had an expiring contract and you could get value even with your hands tied, the Cubs don’t have to trade Soriano. I am fascinated by this, and wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see how it all played out.
UPDATE 6 (7:14pm CT): Like I said on the podcast earlier today, we also have to remember on this: if there was really not much of a market for Soriano, and the Cubs simultaneously wanted to clear the deck and give Soriano a chance to win (sometimes, teams are good to players like that – seriously), then that could explain a really soft return. You can only get what you can get, and I don’t want to make it seem as though I’m pining for the top prospect that Soriano was never going to land, no matter how much money the Cubs ate. I just hoped the Cubs could land a decent relief prospect, for example. We’ll see what happens. The difference between a decent relief prospect and virtually nothing is extremely small, so I’m not really going to grouse either way.
UPDATE 7 (7:24pm CT): Olney amplified what he meant by “lower-tier pitching prospect” in his replies on Twitter (h/t Danny), say that he meant a “third tier, Grade B-/C+ type.” The grading system different folks use is a little flabby, because a B- prospect for Soriano would actually be a “whoa, seriously!?” kind of return (in a good way). So I don’t really expect that, but even if it’s a C+ – which is a legit prospect, albeit a flawed one – I’m probably going to be happy. I tend to think Olney means something lower than that, though, based on his “third tier” comment. Hooray for over-parsing of tiny sentences!
UPDATE 8 (7:49pm CT): I think the whole thing with Olney has just been semantics (and kudos to him for digging on this – no criticism here). He says his guess is that the Yankees would be taking on $5 to $8 million of Soriano’s deal, leaving $17 to $20 million for the Cubs. To me, “bulk” is like $22 or $23 million of $25 million. If the Yankees take on, say, $7 million (which is what I would have guessed: they pay this year, Cubs pay the $18 million next year (gives the Yankees a nice luxury tax benefit), that’s not a bad savings for the Cubs. This is why I said “we’ll get there when we get there.” Never good to react too strongly too early in these things.
UPDATE 9 (8:07pm CT): Bob Nightengale says the Cubs and Yankees have agreed on the pitching prospect in the deal, so we’re probably nearing an announcement.
UPDATE 10 (8:35pm CT): Nothing final just yet, says Carrie Muskat. She also reminds us that the Commissioner’s Office has to approve the transfer of cash. I wonder if we might not see the official announcement until tomorrow.
UPDATE 11 (8:55pm CT): Josh Norris, who covers the Trenton Thunder (Yankees AA) for the Trentonian, says he hears from a source that the pitcher in the deal might be Corey Black, a short but very intriguing righty at High-A. That seems like a plausible return, and the kind of guy the Cubs would take a chance on in a deal like this. Don’t take this as gospel, obviously – just one sourced report.
UPDATE 12 (9:02pm CT): Jon Heyman doesn’t think the deal is getting done tonight, given the Commissioner approval requirement. He also phrases the money as the Cubs paying “more than half” of the $25 million.