Part and parcel of the earlier post on the Chicago Cubs’ possibly reduced efforts to land 26-year-old Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, another Cuban player may have become the primary focus of the Cubs’ presently-available dollars.
Jorge Soler, a 19-year-old outfielder who, like Cespedes, defected from Cuba to the Dominican Republic, has been discussed here many times before. The 6’3″ 205 pound youngster is considered one of the best outfield prospects in baseball, one whom Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein would rank in the top 40 prospects in baseball, and whom Baseball America’s Jim Callis believes would be a top 10 draft pick type.
If your hype-bone is tingling, it should be. This kid comes with loads of it.
And now your excitement bone can start tingling, too.
Goldstein said yesterday that “rumors out of the DR today [are] that the Cubs are making a very very big play for Jorge Soler.” Schwing.
Shortly thereafter, an even more specific report from Marlins’ writer Joe Frisaro said:
The buzz in the industry is Chicago’s focus is on 19-year-old Cuban sensation, Jorge Soler, who has yet to be ruled a free agent. The figure the Cubs are believed to be willing to spend on Soler (according to two sources) is $27.5 million. The number of years is not known.
…but, in part, I doubt that report. Here’s why:
(1) This Cubs’ front office has been notoriously close-lipped about any and all dealings. It took months of cloak and dagger for them to even concede that they were interested in Yoenis Cespedes, despite reports of multiple visits; and
(2) That’s an extremely specific number. Are we to believe that the Cubs have decided internally – or, more accurately, have told other folks, including Soler’s camp – that they’ll spend exactly $27.5 million on Soler? That’s simply not how a negotiation works. You don’t lead by telling your negotiating opponent, “OK, we’ll go as high as $27.5 million. Will you take $15 million?”
That’s not to say I doubt that the Cubs are very interested in Soler and are willing to spend handsomely to get him – I believe both of those things. I also believe that Frisaro has heard that $27.5 million number, and that his two sources heard it, too. I simply doubt that the Cubs have spread the word that they are willing to spend this very specific figure on him.
What’s more likely is that the Cubs and Soler’s camp have had discussions. Over the course of those discussions, many numbers have been thrown around, and a sense has developed that the Cubs would be willing to spend up into the high $20 million range to get Soler if that’s what it will take. I’ll even go as far as to say that, perhaps, now the Cubs are the favorite to sign Soler. All in all, it’s still a schwing.
As for what Soler will ultimately get, early expectations were in the $15 to $20 million range. With Gerardo Concepcion getting more than many expected, it’s fair to guess that Soler may get more than originally thought (indeed, it could climb as high as $27.5 million). It’s also fair to guess that, despite his not being ready for the bigs for many years, he might get a Major League contract, as Concepcion did. He has the negotiating leverage, and he may require a team to give him the big league deal (and the 40-man roster spot that comes with it) as a tie-breaker.
Although Soler defected to the DR around the same time as Cespedes, we’ve heard nothing about his residency process, a necessary precursor to free agency. I suspect that, based on the uptick in Soler chatter, the young man has either achieved residency without fanfare, or is close to doing so. From there, he’ll need to secure a work visa in the U.S. before he can sign – a process that has taken Cespedes more than a week (and counting).
Soler, unlike Cespedes, is not a threat to contribute in the bigs this year, so the urgency to sign is reduced. Indeed, the only meaningful time constraint on Soler’s signing is July – that’s when the international signing restrictions in the new CBA kick in for the first time. If Soler wants to bank huge bucks, he’ll want to sign before then.
That’s all to say it could still be a fair bit of time before Soler signs.
If he signs with the Cubs, at least he’ll have some company in the minors. The Cubs have already signed three Cuban youngsters this Winter: big-time pitcher Gerardo Concepcion, and outfielder Yasiel Balaguert and pitcher Carlos Martinez. Their presence in the system probably won’t hurt the Cubs’ chances with Soler, who could adjust to life in in the United States and in professional baseball with some familiar faces.
Indeed, their presence, coupled with the Cubs’ pursuit of Soler, might not be a coincidence.