NEW YORK — Alfonso Soriano took one look around Yankee Stadium and broke into a big, familiar smile.
“This is my house, this is my home,” he said. “I’m happy I have the opportunity to come back to New York — 10 years.”
The New York Yankees reacquired Soriano in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on Friday, hoping the seven-time All-Star can provide a power boost to a team that desperately needs pop.
Soriano immediately went into the starting lineup, batting cleanup and playing left field against Tampa Bay. The Cubs got minor league pitcher Corey Black and will send almost $17.7 million to the Yankees to cover the rest of Soriano’s rich contract.
“We’ve obviously been trying to improve our offense, to no avail, throughout this season,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “By far, he is the best available bat to date.”
Soriano outhomered the Yankees all by himself (10-8) in the four weeks prior to the deal. Overall, the 37-year-old was hitting .254 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs with the Cubs.
The Bronx Bombers led the majors with 245 home runs last year, but have become the Bronx burn-outs this season, ranking next-to-last in the AL with only 88. Banged up, they’ve played most of the year without Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Their slump from the right side — Soriano hits righty — is even more acute. It’s been a month since a right-hander homered for the Yankees, with Jayson Nix the last to do it on June 25.
Soriano got a big ovation when the public-address announcer read the lineups and welcomed him with “and once again a Yankee.” Soriano saluted the stadium’s Bleacher Creatures during their roll call, and was cheered again when his past Yankees highlights were shown on the video board.
Wearing his socks high, Soriano got an assist when his throw led to an inning-ending out in the top of the second. He led off the bottom half and flied out.
Soriano made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1999 and quickly blossomed into a rare package of speed and power. In 2002, he hit 39 homers and 51 doubles while batting .300, stealing 41 bases, scoring 128 runs and driving in 102.
“He’s not the same player he used to be,” Cashman said, “but he certainly provides some thunder from the right side that we’ve been lacking.”
Cashman hinted, too, that more deals might be in the works.
The Yankees began the day with a 54-48 record and in fourth place in the AL East, 6 1/2 games behind division-leading Boston.
Soriano got his old No. 12, with Vernon Wells shifting to No. 22. The Yankees optioned outfielder Thomas Neal to Triple-A to make room for Soriano.
Soriano waived his no-trade clause to rejoin his old team. He was popular with teammates and fans for five seasons before New York traded him to Texas in a deal for Rodriguez.
“He’s played there before,” Granderson said earlier in the day at the team’s spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. “That’s one thing that is a difficult thing to adjust to.”
“You’ve got to come to New York and can you handle it, can you not? Obviously he had in the past,” he said.
Soriano has never played a regular-season game at the new Yankee Stadium. He did, however, hit a home run in his lone game at the ballpark — in April 2009, the Cubs played a pair of exhibition games at Yankee Stadium before the official opener.
Soriano has hit 389 career home runs while playing for the Yankees, Texas, Washington and the Cubs.
In the 2001 World Series, Soriano hit a home run that almost became part of the Yankees’ lore. His go-ahead shot in the eighth inning off Curt Schilling in Game 7 put New York close to another championship, but Arizona rallied in the ninth to win it.
A free swinger, Soriano is known more for power than getting on base. He’s drawn just 15 walks in 93 games this season.
The deal was the latest move for the Cubs before the July 31 deadline for trades without waivers. This month, they traded pitcher Matt Garza to Texas and pitcher Scott Feldman to Baltimore.
Chicago was fourth in the NL Central at 45-55. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Soriano impressed him, on and off the field.
“I think when I came here, for some reason I was under the impression that he would be a negative in the clubhouse and someone that was out for himself, someone who didn’t play the game hard all the time. I was quickly disavowed of that notion,” Epstein said.
“The first time we met with him, we asked him to work on his defense. We asked him to run the bases hard. We asked him to run balls out. We asked him to be a good example for the younger players, and we asked him to always play the game hard and to try to win the fans back over and be a leader in the clubhouse. He said, OK, and he went out and did it.”
Epstein called Soriano “an ultimate pro” and said it was good to trade him now, rather than someday when he wasn’t an everyday guy.
“That’s always a really difficult transition for an elite player, a superstar player, in the final innings of his career. That’s a difficult transition to make and it can often kind of muddy the waters a little bit,” Epstein said.
“He really leaves at the right time with his head held high. And we can all be proud of the career he had as a Cub,” he said.
The 21-year-old Black was 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA in 19 starts for Class A Tampa. The right-hander is averaging 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full pro season.
Chicago will pay $17,688,524 of the $24,491,803 remaining on Soriano’s $136 million, eight-year contract.
The Yankees will pay a total of $6,803,279: a prorated rate of $5 million for this year’s $18 million salary and $5 million of Soriano’s $18 million salary in 2014, the final season of the deal.
“I think he’s a great addition. One of my favorite teammates of all-time,” said Teixeira, who played with Soriano in Texas in 2004-05.
“I love the move. We need a right-handed bat, obviously. We need that thump. We need to score a few more runs, and he’s one of those guys that can beat you with one swing,” he said.
Soriano needs 11 hits to reach 2,000 lifetime. His career leadoff home runs are second most in history to Rickey Henderson’s 81.
NOTES: The Yankees are hoping SS Derek Jeter (strained right quadriceps) can come off the disabled list Saturday. He was set to see a doctor Friday. ... Teixeira, who’s had season-ending surgery on his right wrist, expects to begin his offseason training program in November and start swinging a bat in January, both right on schedule.
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum, AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Bourbonnais, Ill., and AP freelancer Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.