Yankees close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from Cubs

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Alfonso Soriano’s return to the Bronx has been rumored for the past couple of days, but a deal is almost official.

According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said that Soriano has been scratched from tonight’s lineup against the Diamondbacks because a trade with the Yankees is close. In fact, Sveum told Sullivan that a deal is “99 percent done.”

The specifics of the deal aren’t yet known, but Bob Nightengale of USA Today says a pitching prospect with go to Chicago. Soriano still has around $25 million left on his contract through next season, so the Cubs figure to pay a big chunk of it. Similar to the Vernon Wells trade, the Yankees will likely try to arrange it so that whatever portion they cover will not count toward their payroll for next season. Soriano’s contract includes a full no-trade clause, but it was never expected to be an obstacle here.

Soriano, who played his first five seasons in the majors as a member of the Yankees, is batting .254/.287/.467 with 17 home runs and 51 RBI through 93 games this season. The Yankees have been desperate for any sort of production from the right side of the plate, so Soriano should help on that end. The 37-year-old has an .806 OPS against southpaws this season. He’ll likely play left field for now and figures to shift to DH when Curtis Granderson comes off the DL.

UPDATE: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes that the deal isn’t likely to be finalized tonight, as it still needs approval from the commissioner’s office. He adds that the Cubs are expected to pay more than half of the $25 million left on Soriano’s contract.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.

The Red Sox sign Jhonny Peralta

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The Red Sox have signed third baseman Jhonny Peralta to a minor-league deal. He’ll report to Pawtucket.

Peralta, 35, hit a paltry .204/.259/.204 in 58 plate appearances for the Cardinals this year. But with Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list — and ineffective when he hasn’t been — the Sox could use some infield depth.

This is the second former Tiger that former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has picked up today, after signing Doug Fister. No word if he’s kicking the tires on Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch.