[See the Updates below. The deal is official.]
The obligatory preface: considering his age (37), offensive decline (102 OPS+ this year, despite the crazy hot streak), his contract ($18 million this and next year), and his no-trade rights, the return on an Alfonso Soriano deal was never going to be fantastic. That said, the Cubs were not going to trade him just to trade him, and it was fair to assume that they would extract some value for Soriano, if they decided to move him (in addition to the bonus value of the opened up outfield spot and the opportunity to give Soriano a chance to win).
If the early rumors this morning are correct, it sounds like the Cubs are going to get some value for Soriano, who has already said his goodbyes and headed off to New York.
First, on the money side, the range of dollars the Cubs will be saving on the $25 million Soriano is owed is somewhere between $7 and $12 million (Jon Heyman says $7 to $8 million, Joel Sherman says $8 to $12 million; Heyman explicitly says it’s under $10 million, though). The Yankees were always going to try and have the Cubs pay as close to $18 million as possible (Soriano’s full 2014 salary) for luxury tax purposes. Mentally, I’d prepared myself for about $7 million in savings, so anything over that is a win.
On the prospect side, the consensus seems to be that the Cubs had three, lower-level pitching prospects to choose from. Bruce Levine describes the three possible pitching prospects as top 20 in the Yankees’ system, but not top 10. Once again, generally speaking, that sounds great, given the limitations enumerated in the first paragraph of this post.
Two of the three names appear to be High-A starter Corey Black (rumored last night) and AA reliever Tommy Kahnle, per Jon Heyman. Each is a guy with great stuff but control/command issues. Black is 21 (soon to be 22), and Kahnle is 23. Pre-season, John Sickels ranked Black 12th in the Yankees system (and probably falling a bit from there), and Kahnle was just outside the top 20.
Getting a guy you can dream on as a future contributing reliever – hard thrower, huge strikeout rate, but flawed – is a nice return for Soriano at this stage in the game. Combine that with significant cost savings, roster turnover, and helping out Soriano? I like where this is going.
But we’ll see.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports the financial side like this: “Soriano is owed about $24.5m through ’14. CHC are going to pick up about $17.7m. NYY will pick up about $6.8m of that, including $5m in ’14.” So, $7 million in savings would be on the low end of what you’d hope for, but nothing to bat an eye at. The surprising part would be the Yankees picking up $5 million in 2014 – that counts against the luxury tax cap. I wonder if the Cubs preferred not to cover the whole thing next year? The financial side of this deal is extremely complicated, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s hard to describe in a single tweet exactly how it’s all playing out, and how much the Cubs really “save.”
UPDATE 2 (8:05am CT): Jim Bowden is reporting that the Commissioner’s Office has approved the trade and it is now official. We’ll still wait for word from the teams. We also still need official word on what the Cubs are getting.
UPDATE 3 (8:26am CT): Jon Heyman counters Bowden with an, “um, no it’s not.” Heyman believes it’ll be approved soon, but says it hasn’t been yet.
UPDATE 4 (9:48am CT): While we await formal, final, official confirmation, and the official identification of the Cubs’ return, Nick Cafardo drops this bomb, which Buster Olney hinted yesterday: the only team Soriano would accept a trade to is the Yankees. If true, then you’ve got to feel even better about the return the Cubs were able to get. That said, I suspect we’re going to hear some folks refuting Cafardo’s report on this point.
UPDATE 5 (10:00am CT): Joel Sherman reports it is indeed Corey Black coming to the Cubs.
UPDATE 6 (10:54am CT): Well, the deal still hasn’t officially been announced, but, everyone seems to agree it’s Soriano to the Yankees for Corey Black, with the Yankees taking on $5 million per year for Soriano (prorated this year to $1.8 million), for a total cash savings to the Cubs of $6.8 million. John Sickels has a quick take on Black, who sounds like a legit pitching prospect, albeit one with some size and control issues. Here’s a snippet:
Born on August 4, 1991, Black isn’t a big guy, standing 5-11, listed at 175. As you would expect from a former shortstop, he is a very good athlete and has plenty of arm strength: he’s been clocked as high as 100 MPH in short stints and works in the mid-90s as a starter. He has a curveball, slider, and changeup. Although none of his secondary pitches are considered outstanding, they off-set the fastball well when his command is on. His mechanics aren’t the smoothest and his command is inconsistent, but he picks up strikeouts at a good clip.
If he throws strikes and makes further progress with his secondaries, Black can start at higher levels. If that doesn’t work out, his arm would still look good in the bullpen.
This is a good deal for everyone.
UPDATE 7 (3:40pm CT): The deal is officially official. Welcome, Corey Black. Farewell, Alfonso Soriano.