NEW YORK -- The Chicago Cubs are paying almost $18 million of Alfonso Soriano's salary this season, but team president Theo Epstein says the July 2013 trade has benefited both the Cubs and New York Yankees, Soriano's original major league team.
Maligned in his early years as a Cub, Soriano redeemed himself at the end, becoming a better defender and leader as he played out the sixth year of a seven-year, $136 million contract. The Cubs were able to move him last summer for minor league pitcher Corey Black while also agreeing to pay about $17.7 million of the estimated $24.5 million remaining on Soriano's deal, which runs through this season.
"It looks like a deal that worked out for both sides," Epstein told ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers on Monday, the day before the Cubs and Yankees were rained out in the Bronx. The teams will play a doubleheader Wednesday.
"He had a no-trade clause and the Yankees were a team he felt comfortable with. We were in talks for a while. They said no to all the players [we asked for], including Corey Black. And then eventually they said they would do Black."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said owner Hal Steinbrenner ordered him to finalize the Soriano trade, despite the fact Cashman wanted to be more patient in his negotiations with the Cubs.
"I didn't want to give up Corey Black, but I didn't nix the Soriano deal," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com in July. "I did not want to do Corey Black. We had been negotiating with the Cubs for a long time. They wanted something more a week earlier and ownership, obviously, in our discussions [felt] we needed to do something.
"They were like, 'Hey, we are not going to wait anymore to negotiate, we have to get this done now.'"
Soriano, 38, has hit 20 home runs in 70 games since the trade. After a slow start to this season, he has heated up over the past seven days, batting .304 with three home runs and four RBIs.
Although he hit 181 home runs and slashed .264/.317/.495 in six-plus seasons with the Cubs, he never came close to being the 30-30 threat he was with the Washington Nationals and Yankees at the start of his career.
Was Soriano ultimately a good free-agent signing for the Cubs? If his legs had held up and he performed better in the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, the answer might be easier. The young Cubs players swore by his leadership, which means he could have an effect on the franchise's rebuilding process long after he's gone.
"He was 94-96 [mph] with really good life," he said. "We're happy with his development so far."
Black, 22, might end up in the bullpen, although he's starting now.
The trade of Soriano also opened up room in the outfield for the Cubs.
"It's given us a chance to take a closer look at Junior Lake," Epstein said. "That's important to find out what we have in him. It's tough to lose Soriano's leadership, but there's a right time to move on and it made sense."
ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.