Flash back to late July. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wanted to bring Alfonso Soriano back. He also wanted to extend trade talks with the Cubs rather than part with the live young right arm that belonged to Corey Black.
But owner Hal Steinbrenner, emulating his father's get-it-done management style, did not want to wait another day to see what Soriano's literally big bat could do to resuscitate the Yankees' nearly moribund offense. The deal was done.
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The Cubs converted Black, 22, into a starting pitcher, and he relied on his mid-90s fastball to produce a 4-0 record with a 2.88 ERA for Daytona of the Florida State League. But the Yankees' fourth-round draft choice in 2012 is a bit of a hold-your-breath prospect because he required Tommy John surgery at a young age.
There is no such uncertainty surrounding Soriano, even at 37 years young. He is among the primary reasons why the Yankees still have hope in their pursuit of the American League's second wild-card berth.
Soriano homered for the second time in as many days Saturday, belting a solo shot into the leftfield seats on the first pitch thrown by Guillermo Moscoso to begin the sixth inning. That capped the scoring as the Yankees beat the Giants, 6-0.
"We are sure thankful it happened,'' manager Joe Girardi said of Soriano's return. "Since he got here, he provided a lot of punch to our lineup.''
Soriano's 17th home run for the Yankees gave him an even 50 RBIs in 52 games since the trade. He needed 93 games to reach 17 homers and 51 RBIs for the ever-rebuilding Cubs.
Soriano is hardly the first player to understand that there is something special about pulling on pinstripes. "Here is different from Chicago," he said. "Chicago has a lot of young guys with talent. Here is veteran guys with talent. They are more about winning here.''
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Soriano became the fifth major-leaguer to drive in at least 50 runs for each of two teams in one season. He joined David Justice (2000, Indians-Yankees), Carlos Beltran (2004, Royals-Astros), Manny Ramirez (2008, Red Sox-Dodgers) and Matt Holliday (2009, A's-Cardinals).
The Yankees were the organization that initially signed Soriano from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic in 1998. He played his first five major-league seasons with them, from 1999-2003, before being traded for Alex Rodriguez.
Soriano batted .284 with 98 home runs, 270 RBIs and 121 stolen bases in 501 games during that span. Even with the arrival of Robinson Cano, Soriano's 209 hits and 39 home runs in 2002 remain the most by a Yankees second baseman in a single season.
Soriano moved on and made the transition from second base to leftfield, but he did not forget his roots.
"This was my first organization. I know what the Yankees mean,'' he said. "It's all about winning.''
As the Yankees clinched their 21st consecutive winning season, Soriano could not feel more at home than he does at Yankee Stadium, where fans were quick to embrace him again. He has knocked in 35 runs in 26 games in the Bronx since his homecoming.
The price Cashman reluctantly paid might not be known for several years. It is hard to imagine it was too high.