Soriano’s Return to Yankees Is Imminent, Cubs Manager Sveum Says

Alfonso Soriano is close to returning to the New York Yankees after a nine-year absence, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

Sveum replaced the outfielder with Nate Schierholtz in his lineup for last night’s game at the Arizona Diamondbacks after Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein told the manager a trade for Soriano was imminent.

“I took him out of the lineup and put Schierholtz in,” Sveum told reporters. “Theo called and said (the trade) is pretty close to being done, so just better off not playing him.”

Chicago is waiting for the 37-year-old Soriano to formally waive his right to reject a trade before completing the transaction, ESPN said last night. Soriano has one year remaining on a $136 million, eight-year deal, said.

The Yankees want to sign Soriano before Major League Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline because of a lack of power hitting caused by injuries to key players. Soriano has eight home runs during July, one more than the entire Yankees team.

New York ranks 24th of 30 MLB teams with 88 home runs this year after leading the majors with 245 homers during the 2012 regular season. The Yankees have scored 395 runs this year to rank 22nd after finishing second in that category last year with 804 runs.

The Yankees’ offense has been stymied by the absence of injured players including Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Curtis Granderson, who hit a team-high 43 home runs last year, and Mark Teixeira, who contributed 24 home runs, are also on the disabled list.

Soriano-Rodriguez Trade

The Yankees are fourth in the five-team American League East with a 54-48 mark, 6 1/2 games behind the division-leading Boston Red Sox.

Soriano is batting .254 this season with 17 home runs and 51 runs batted in. During his 15-year career, which began in 1999 with the Yankees, he has a .272 batting average with 389 home runs, 1,989 hits and 1,086 RBIs.

Soriano was traded by the Yankees to the Texas Rangers for Rodriguez on Feb. 2, 2004. He played two seasons with the Rangers and one for the Washington Nationals before joining the Cubs in November 2006.

Shortstop Jeter, who batted in 58 runs and had 15 homers last year, said yesterday that he’ll be ready to play tomorrow, when he’s eligible to come off the disabled list, at Yankee Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I think I could play today,” Jeter said after running the bases before New York’s 2-0 win at the Rangers yesterday. “I feel good. I didn’t feel my leg, which is good.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was more circumspect, saying the team captain will be assessed by a doctor after running the bases again today.

Jeter played one game this season before returning to the disabled list July 19 with a quadriceps strain. Jeter, 39, sustained the injury after returning from offseason ankle surgery on July 12.

Rehabilitation Plan

Rodriguez said last night that he’ll accept a five-day Yankees rehabilitation plan for a thigh muscle strain that may see him return Aug. 6.

Rodriguez and the Yankees have been verbally jousting over his return after hip surgery in January. The Yankees may discipline the third baseman for seeking a second opinion on a thigh injury sustained during a minor-league rehab stint because he didn’t get permission from the team first, the Associated Press reported last night.

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