PHOENIX – Wearing pinstripes, Alfonso Soriano once made the cover of Sports Illustrated. The August 26, 2002 issue featured his image next to this headline: “The Latest Greatest Yankee.”
Soriano’s All-Star years are behind him, but he can help the Yankees right now, and the Cubs are looking toward a future that doesn’t involve 37-year-old outfielders. He signaled he’s willing to green-light a trade to New York, where he’d be reunited with old friends Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano.
Soriano came away from a meeting with team president Theo Epstein and manager Dale Sveum sounding like this will be his final days – hours? – in the Cubs clubhouse.
“(Theo) knows my point. Now we’re waiting,” Soriano said Wednesday at Chase Field. “The Yankees are on the list.”
Epstein has said the Cubs have received multiple calls. But right now Soriano, who has full no-trade rights, understands the Yankees are close and said he doesn’t know about any other possible destinations. There were indications the two sides could need another 48-hour window to figure out how to split the roughly $25 million left on Soriano’s megadeal, which expires after next season.
“It’s a little difficult, because I’ve been almost seven years here with the same ‘uni’ and I have my place in Chicago,” Soriano said. “But it’s part of baseball. Sometimes we have to move.”
Epstein – who met with the $136 million man in Sveum’s office on Tuesday night – said he doesn’t expect formal notification from Soriano’s camp until Thursday at the earliest.
“There was really no talk of a list,” Epstein said. “We just kind of outlined the different options for Sori. He asked for two or three days to think things over.
“(He’ll) let us know where he’ll go – if anywhere – and then at that point it’s up to us if we want to go forward with finalizing a deal.”
Soriano sat against right-hander Ian Kennedy on Wednesday night, but the Cubs framed it as a “scheduled day off” given the three lefty starters in this four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Cubs also needed to find room in the outfield for just-activated David DeJesus, left-handed bat Nate Schierholtz and on-fire rookie Junior Lake. Playing time and status would be an ongoing issue for Soriano in 2014.
“We told him how much we respect him and appreciate everything he’s done here,” Epstein said, “and that sometimes there’s a natural time to move on to clear opportunities for younger players (and) get him into a pennant race.
“It’s his right. Whatever he decides, we’re completely fine with. But we just wanted to outline (the situation). It seems like it might be an appropriate time – if he is going to move on – to do it now.”
Soriano welcomed the mental break that came with a day off and understood the need to go in a different direction.
“I said in spring training: I’d like to finish my career and my contract here,” Soriano said. “But at the same time, I want another chance to be in the playoffs, to be in the World Series. I’d be more than happy if we started playing better and got a chance to win here.
“But if it’s not (happening), I’m 37. I want to have one more chance to go to the World Series. And if in their mind they’re preparing the team for 2015, 2016, it’s too late for me. I tried to be a champion here. But if not, I got to try to move on to another team.”