It wasn’t all that long ago that just-turned-20-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler was at the tips of every Chicago Cubs-related fingertip. The Cubs really wanted him. And then the Cubs were the favorite to land him. And then the Cubs had kinda-sorta signed him. And then the Cubs were just the favorite again.
All of this, mind you, before Soler was even a free agent.
He’s still not a free agent, by the way, but that fact hasn’t stemmed the flow of rumors, at least not completely. And, while the Cubs may remain the favorite to sign Soler, they aren’t the only team involved, as you well know.
The latest heavy-hitter to enter the fray? Our favorite jouster, the Boston Red Sox. From ESPNBoston:
While the Sox certainly had interest in Cespedes and to a lesser degree Concepcion, the younger Soler has the greatest appeal to them, the official said. “He has incredible raw power,’’ the official said of the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, though he wasn’t quite as ready as others to credit Soler with plus speed and being a plus defender.
At this point, the official said once Soler signs, it would be best to start him in Class A ball, although without having in camp, that’s just a projection.
The Sox official said that there are indications that Soler will establish his residency in the Dominican Republic in a couple of weeks, a required step before clubs can begin negotiating with him. That timetable, as it did with Cespedes, could change, the official said, but the Sox have maintained communication with Soler’s agent, Barry Praver. …
There are a number of teams interested in Soler, but he could be the centerpiece of an intense competition between the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs and Theo Epstein, who according to some reports was preparing to make a four-year, $26 million for Soler. The White Sox, Yankees, Marlins, Phillies and Astros are all among the clubs who have been reported to be in on Soler, but the Sox are prepared to make a major push.
If Soler’s residency is still weeks away, free agency – and then a work visa – could be a long ways off indeed.
Soler, if signed, would become the centerpiece of the Cubs’ offseason (or early season, as the date may be), which is a testament to the plans of the new management team. It’s rare that a large market club makes a 19/20-year-old its primary target for the Winter, but the Cubs know where their nearest success lies – and it probably isn’t in 2012.
The competition for Soler will be fierce, and the ultimate contract could be wacky. Spending limitations on international free agents kick in after June, so (1) you can expect Soler to sign before then, and (2) you can expect a whole bunch of teams to be involved, hoping to cash in while they still can.