By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees made a big move to boost their anemic offense by finalizing a trade for power hitter Alfonso Soriano and inserting him into the lineup for Friday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The trade to obtain the outfielder from the Chicago Cubs had been widely expected, but final approval and confirmation of the deal was not made until less than three hours before the game against the visiting Rays.
"We've been trying to improve our offense to no avail throughout the season," said Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, whose team has been hurt by injuries to players including Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira. "By far he is the best available bat."
The Yankees, whose reliance on power hitting as they racked up a record 27 World Series brought them the nickname of the Bronx Bombers, rank 22nd among the 30 major league teams in runs scored, and a lowly 24th in home runs.
Soriano will bat fourth and play left field in his return to the Bronx, where the Dominican began his Major League Baseball career in 1999. Soriano was traded to the Texas Rangers in 2004 in the deal that brought Rodriguez to the Yankees.
The rebuilding Cubs (45-55), who reportedly have agreed to pay a large portion of Soriano's $18 million salary in 2014, received hard-throwing minor league right-handed pitcher Corey Black in return, the Yankees said in a statement.
The 37-year-old Soriano hit .254 with 17 home runs and 51 runs batted in over 93 games with the Cubs this season.
Last year, he belted 32 homers, drove in 108 runs and batted .262.
The defending American League East champion Yankees (54-48) are in fourth place in the division, 6 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox.
First baseman Teixeira, sidelined for the season due to a wrist injury, praised the acquisition of Soriano.
"He is one of my favorite teammates of all time," said Teixeira, who played with Soriano in Texas in 2004 and 2005.
"He's like Robinson Cano, one of those guys who is always happy, loves playing the game, has incredible talent. I love the move. We need a right-handed bat, obviously. We need the thump.
"He's one of those guys that can beat you with one swing. I think he'll be great for this team."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)