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Late last night, and early this morning, rumors that the Chicago Cubs had come to terms with 19-year-old Cuban outfield prospect Jorge Soler on a four-year, $27.5 million deal made the rounds. The source of the rumors was an oddly-phrased, and questionable report from the Chicago Tribune’s Dave van Dyke, who may not have even intended to report a deal. But, after the Cubs’/Soler understanding was apparently confirmed by Baseball Prosectus’s Kevin Goldstein, it felt safe enough to report, if not to squeal in excitement.

You were cautioned that the Cubs “may” have come to terms with Soler, whom all acknowledged is not yet free to actually sign with a team. This, it turns out, is why you were cautioned that the signing only “may” have happened.

This afternoon, other members of the Chicago and national media have refuted the earlier reports, and even Goldstein backed off slightly from his previous statements.

Carrie Muskat called the reports of an agreement “premature,” and said that “lots of teams” have interest in Soler. Bruce Miles said something similar. Buster Olney reported that the New York Yankees have serious interest in Soler, and the Cubs aren’t close to signing him.

Goldstein suggested that his earlier statements were more of a reflection of his having heard that the Cubs made a monster offer, and that Soler’s agent has previously made these kind of wink-and-nod agreements. (This afternoon on a Score radio appearance, though, Goldstein noted that he still believes Soler will end up with the Cubs after all of the formalities are in place.)

CSN’s Dave Kaplan was the most definitive, saying “according to a highly placed source, talk of him already agreeing to a deal with the Cubs are not accurate and the reports from the Dominican Republic of a four-year deal for 27.5 million dollars with Chicago are ludicrous. The Cubs are expected to be insistent on a longer deal if he wants to sign with them, but the dollars could fall into that range.”

(An important aside: no one has suggested that the Cubs would even remotely consider signing Soler to a four-year deal of the unusual kind that Yoenis Cespedes got from the A’s (four years, with an immediate grant of free agency thereafter). Such a deal for a 19-year-old would indeed be “ludicrous.” Instead, Soler, even if he signs a Major League deal, is going to be giving his team plenty of control – he won’t be a free agent until he’s accrued six years of Major League service time, just like every other player. If Soler gets a four-year deal, he could be giving his team as many as 10 years of control if the first four years come in the minors (he’ll merely be being paid very handsomely during those four years). The idea, then, that signing Soler to a four-year contract is “ludicrous” because it is too short suggests a misunderstanding of MLB’s arbitration and free agency rules under the CBA.)

Where does the truth lie? Well, what do we know for sure? We know Soler is not a free agent yet. We know he may not even be a resident of the Dominican Republic yet. So we know he can’t sign a contract. That gives a whole lot of clearance for folks to say that the rumors of a preliminary agreement are not true.

I think it’s safe to say that the Cubs really want Soler, and have been in discussions with his representatives. Those discussions have probably not been merely preliminary, but have probably involved some very specific terms.

Indeed, I checked with a source who’s usually fairly well tapped into the amateur scene, and he suggested that he believes the Cubs and Soler’s camp have a non-binding, mutual understanding of what an acceptable contract would look like once Soler is eligible to actually sign one.

I can’t say with confidence that Soler’s camp isn’t still talking to other teams, but it seems safe to conclude that the terms the Cubs have thrown around have been sufficiently acceptable that they *could* represent a final deal, once Soler is cleared to sign.

So why all these staunch reports that there’s no deal, and a number of teams are still in on him, etc., etc.? One possibility is that those staunch reports are simply correct. That would mean my source is wrong, Dave van Dyke and the Dominican sources are wrong, and Kevin Goldstein is wrong. Very possible. It happens.

Another possibility? The Cubs are protecting themselves.

Consider this: Jorge Arangure of ESPN had an interesting take on the way these reports have come out today. He noted in a series of tweets that, with respect to the Cubs and Soler, “[b]oth sides may have a deal, but would now have to give impression they don’t because it’s against US and MLB rules. Teams have to be very careful regarding Cuban players. Premature deals can get teams in legal trouble. So basically, expect a lot of spin the coming weeks about Soler to Cubs.”

Arangure is undoubtedly right that an American entity reaching an agreement with a Cuban citizen – one who hasn’t even yet established residency outside of Cuba – would be a big no-no. Given that, imagine that you’re the Cubs. You’ve had advanced discussions with Soler, and maybe have even laid out the parameters of a deal. Now word is leaking that you’ve done this, and you are worried that it might be frowned upon by both MLB and the U.S. Government. What do you do? Well, you do your best to shoot the “rumor” down.

And, if you were the Cubs, how would you best do it? Well, first getting a couple local folks to debunk it would be a start – perhaps one who is seen by many as the media face of the organization (Muskat), and one who is a very well-connected insider (Kaplan). So you leak some information, all of which is perhaps technically correct. But that might not be enough. Maybe you decide it would be handy to have some a national angle, too. Given that you’d be in a position to know, if you had someone in the organization call up Buster Olney and tell him the Yankees are heavily involved, any chance he wouldn’t run with that? It’s the Yankees, for crying out loud. Buster knows where his bread is buttered.

So, within a couple hours, you’ve just bought your organization a whole lot of clearance. That’s just a theory, of course – one that borders on “conspiratorial” in terms of its believability – but I’d be willing to guess it’s closer to the truth than any other explanation for how things have played out today.

If the Cubs didn’t try to protect themselves, they’d see a whole lot more articles like this one from Baseball America, openly questioning whether the Cubs have violated MLB rules and U.S. law by coming to an agreement with a Cuban citizen who wasn’t cleared to do so. (For what it’s worth, my reaction to the BA piece and others like it: sure, it’s possible the Cubs have violated MLB rules and the law, but, like, do you really think they’re they stupid? There’s a fundamental difference between coming to an enforceable agreement – i.e., a contract – and coming together on a non-binding, informal understanding of what will probably happen once that Cuban citizen is free to contract.)

Ultimately, after digesting everything, I believe it’s more likely than not that Jorge Soler will eventually sign with the Cubs, and probably on a contract featuring terms that have already been discussed – if not explicitly “agreed to” – between the parties. Let’s call it 51%. But it could still be a while.

Without being a scare-monger, it seems fair to point out: Yoenis Cespedes was all but signed and delivered to the Miami Marlins three or four times before the A’s came completely out of nowhere and signed him.

Keep your squeals in check.

  • JB88

    I’m starting to think a lot like you because your article and one of my posts from this morning look a lot a like :)

    (And, in advance, please note that I am not in any way shape or form suggesting anything improper).

  • Cliffy

    Very well laid out for us readers. I believe it makes perfect sense. Unfortunately not much this off season has made sense (Pujols, Fielder and Cespedes) signings as example so I dunno.

  • Rich G

    So crane Kenney told Dave Kaplan it’s not done yet.

  • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

    One other factor on Soler; I’ve seen in a couple of places that Soler is supposedly a close friend of Gerardo Concepcion, who has signed with the Cubs. No one is out right saying the two wanted to play in the same organization, but it has been hinted at. I’d not be at all surprised if Soler has made up his mind to be a Cubs, and that the surge of activity by the Yankees and others reported by Olney is their efforts to pay him enough to change his mind.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Wouldn’t at all be surprised to learn even that the Cubs’ efforts to sign Concepcion, Balaguert and Martinez were not totally unrelated to their desire to eventually sign Soler.

      • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

        Perhaps, but those guys are all legit prospects in their own right. I think the trend of Cubans to the Cubs is going to continue into future seasons in a big way, regardless of whether or not Soler lands in Chicago.

        But it still makes sense that the Cubs would be thinking that way.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Oh I’m not saying the Cubs would sign these kids *solely* to help their case with Soler. Added benefit.

  • cjdubbya

    So I have to wonder, on that car ride up to Milwaukee, did Epstein tell Praver that the Cubs would give “significant compensation” for Soler’s services?

  • Josh

    this is my first comment here, and i just love this site. I just googled Jorge Soler and this is the wikipedia page, i found that it says that he is on the Cubs hilarious http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Muboshgu/Jorge_Soler

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      Small sample size, etc., but if those numbers are right (.500 OBP, 9 walks in the WBC), that is very good news. Plus-power, plus-speed, a great arm, and he can draw walks and get on base? That $28 million may not be as big an over-pay as I first thought…

  • ThosKam

    Well written arguments Brett – and your conspiracy theories actually sound quite valid – more so than the ones I was putting together — mainly – the “mainstream” media doesn’t like getting scooped by the interwebz – and immediately started debunking the facts in order to bring the pendulum back to “center” so that when THEY “break” the story – it looks more legit. :) Course – I’ve got a bad attitude towards most sports writers these days – and lean towards regular bloggers such as yourself for far better analysis.

  • http://bleachernation loyal100more

    deal in principal? sounds good to me… but thats about as close as anything can be to final with any club… gotta be careful here…

  • CF

    To take Brett’s story further, if Soler hasn’t received clearance from OFAC, Barry Praver cannot be contractually obligated as his agent. That is, presuming Praver isn’t a Canadian or European. It’s not legal for ANY U.S. citizen or entity to transact business with Cuban nationals, not just baseball teams.

    Discussions can’t be anything beyond the wink & nod show at this point.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Another good point.

  • http://Www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    So even negotiating with Soler is a no-no. This is going to go on as long as TheoComp has been going on…

  • David

    I like your theory, Brett, although I would be surprised if the “leak” came from the Cubs. TheoJed seem to be pretty tight lipped about things when there isn’t the bonus of international intrigue. It would make perfect sense, then, for them to do whatever they could to shoot the story down.

    • JB88

      I think it is helpful to parse out what leaks we are talking about. The initial leak that Soler and the Cubs had agreed to a contract most certainly DIDN’T come from the Cubs. However, it is possible and, in fact, probable that the leak that no agreement exists did come from the Cubs. Look at those who are reporting this with conviction — Muskat, Kaplan; i.e., Chicago media.

      • David

        Agreed. That was what I was saying (although you said it better)

  • Peter

    Haha, typical Cubs BS, or Chicago media I should say. Well this is how I see it playing out, we will not end up signing Soler and he will go somewhere else. Meanwhile Cubs fans will say that it was too much money to give to a unproven prospect and all that garbage and meanwhile Theo will still look brilliant somehow and the typical “we tried” excuse will be hurled around. Technically a team could offer a dollar and still say they tried. In my opinion the Cubs will make an offer without the intent of ever winning; probably most likely what they did with Darvish and Cespedes. In anycase I will brace myself for more negative news as we miss out on Soler and our whole “rebuild from within” philosophy will look quite questionable becuase we will not commit money to prospects with high upside. I dont care that we did not pay a ludicrous amount for Pujols, Fielder, or Darvish, but not offering upwards of 30 million spread over a number of years for a large market team like the Cubs would be pathetic and inexcusable. It seems that in the future the Cubs will always be “players” for big name talent and free agents, but will never be close to getting them. But it’s ok because Theo knows all; of course I cannot just outright blame him for anything, just aggravated being tugged around all the time by the Cubs. Love this team, but 5 years from now we will not be any better off most likely. But it’s ok becuase we will always have plenty of 28 year old prospects to bring up to fill the gaps, oh yeah and we have Jeff Baker.

    • baldtaxguy

      I don’t think all of this is as negative as your portraying.  Its an A1 prospect commanding an A1 market price and as Brett describes very well, its premature to contract with this A1 prospect today.  I’m not sure its much more than this.

  • Cheryl

    Yes it will go on but not that long. I think Brett’s analysis is right on target. As for the major media not wanting to be scooped by the internet that’s no doubt true. And, they especially don’t like being scooped by the local media.

  • Reality Check

    You rock Peter!! Haha!! Preach!!!

  • die hard

    all good points….thats all the Cubs need is Selig deciding another issue that could impact season…issues on Braun and compensation is enough for one season….

  • Abe Froman

    Peter, if that is your real name, sounds fake to me…Peter. You tell me, what moves you would make this off-season to set up the long-term success of the team? Or, and this is a very small or, are you the type that always pokes holes in every idea/plan/strategy that is ever put in front of you, never offering solutions only problems (die hard you know what I’m talking about)? Maybe we get Soler, maybe we don’t, but there are 29 other teams competing for the services for players, and many that will overpay, (see Prince Fielder).
    If you don’t have ideas and all you do is say how every move is ridiculous and your crystal ball shows failure in the future, the next time you have something to say…fucking don’t.

    • ferrets_bueller

      Nicely done, couldn’t agree more.

    • MichiganGoat

      But Abe can you cite any sources for your reasoning? (sorry couldn’t resist, tis a silly day)

    • Richard Nose

      Abe wins. That shit drives me nuts too. It’s clearly option B, guys like him will talk shit about any and every move and non-move.

  • miggy80

    Well I guess I can say Theo and the boys have done some work this off season. Now if only they could get better souvenir cups.

  • Burt

    Great article. Great spin on it. Thanks.

  • Leo Deleon

    Buster Olney reports the Yankees have emergered as the team to beat in the pursuit of Jorge Soler. ESPN news was the source.

  • LouCub

    Buster Olney I beleive had the Yankees signing Greg Maddux before he came home to the Cubs in 2004…He’s an east coast suckdick…nothing more nothing less

    • DocWimsey

      Olney never would have had Maddux going to the Yankees. Steinbrenner never forgave Maddux for turning down their offer in 1992 (with an added bonus for the “hardship” of living in NY City) to take less money in Atlanta.

      Moreover, my suspicion is that the Yankees will be the team to land Soler. They’ve got $$$ to burn and this is the last year they’ll be able to use it like this. And, yes, their farm system really needs a few shots in the arm. Maddux was unusual: the lure of NY City (especially to a kid from Cuba) is going to be much stronger than Chicago: even in Cuba, they know that NYC *is* America.

  • OHBearCub

    I will be happy if we sign the kid. I won’t be depressed if we don’t. I do think Theo has not had that many options in the market this off season. Pujols and Fielder would have been bad contracts IMO. I just hope is a genius and Stewart, Dejesus, Rizzo and his confidence in Lahair all pay off. If the new pitchers mature into high achievers the cubs could come out of nowhere. I have a C note i can afford to lose on vegas bet that cubs win the division. If they do I will bank. If they don’t its only a C note. I like throwing longshots in on my trifectas. No risk no reward. Maybe these younger guys catch lightening in a bottle. Could be a way to break the curse with a bunch guys nobody’s ever heard of

    • Quintz

      I’ve yet to see any odds on the Cubs chances of winning that look remotely tempting. They are sitting at 17/1 to win pennant and 40/1 to win WS, which are both hilarious. I can get a handful of teams that are ahead of the Cubs in most power rankings at 100/1. Rule of thumb; never bet futures on the Cubs, Yanks, Red Sox, Cowboys, Steelers, Lakers or Celtics. Way too popular = terrible odds.

      I do realize that as a fan it’s fun to do it anyway, but find that number amusing.

  • Jeremy Lin

    CUBS NEED SOMEBODY LIKE ME. SO SAYS JORGE!

  • James

    I would have to agree with Abe here. I feel like Theo has done a great job this season. He was right not to get the Cubs involved with the Pujols bidding. I would like to see what the Angels are going to do when he hits 39 years old. We have gotten rid of alot of dead weight and head cases this year and started investing in the future. As far as the Cubs not trying harder on Cespedes I think that they have a feeling that he is not going to pan out in the MLB. Granted he had limited at bats in the Domincan but he wasn’t adjusting very well to the pitching there and alot of sources report he has a hard time with the breaking ball. Alot of teams have more money than the A’s and none of them went after him and I believe that says something.So in closing I believe we will be a force to contend with here in a few years.

  • Steve

    Well damn..just damn! I get [excited and then disappointed]. “We signed him ! “….”We didn’t sign him” We can’t sign him” “We cant talk about signing him” We won’t sign him”….
    I come into my office to this crap. Damn, just damn!
    I might just start drinking beer this morning to medicate myself.

    [Ed. - Sorry about editing your comment, Steve, but that was, like, really graphic.]

    • Steve

      I apologize… I wasn’t thinking. Luckily I wasn’t writing briefs!

      Sorry about that.

  • DCF

    I respect yopur reasoning Brett, but the rumor mill has proven to produce mainly crap this offseason so far. Fielder to the Nats, Cespedes to the Fish etc.
    Honestly I think the rumors about Soler to the Cubs actually LOWERS the probability of it being true. It seems to me the Cubs are pretty successful of keeping important things under wraps, while it’s pretty easy to imagine why someone would like to pitch a false story to the media.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      All fair. I just think it’s easier to remember the hot rumors that turned out wrong (especially this offseason) than the ones that turned out right. Heck, even in this particular arena, the Cubs’ interest in Cespedes – just interest – started out as a rumor (first reported here). Turns out, the interest was true. The Cubs were the first team linked to Gerardo Concepcion months ago. And then they signed him. The Sean Marshall trade rumors surfaced several days before a trade went down, and the rumors were spot on. I could go on. It’s very easy to forget stuff like that when Albert Pujols is signing with the Angels out of nowhere.

  • jim

    Let’s just see what “actually’ happens with this CUBS team this year.
    Personally, I think IF they finish 3rd in their division, they will be doing
    good. One of my biggest disappointments going into this season
    is that we still have ALPHONSO SORRY-ANO!

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