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.

  • SirCub

    For some reason, I’m just not as hyped about Soler. Must be the lack of quality viral video marketing…

    • P

      Seriously, why as cubs fan do we care about a guy who no one in the world except 100 people have seen play ball?

      • ogyu

        Perhaps because those 100 people are knowledgeable, experienced baseball scouts, and they say he’s really good.

        • Bric

          Also perhaps because like a national weatherman, their predictions are far less scrutinized on a local level. If you go national and say it’s going to rain in Texas and it doesn’t, the people in New York don’t care either way if they even notice at all. These 100 guys make thousands of projections then hang their hats on those 50 predictions that come to fruition.

          Of course, they would have to have some type of demonstrated skill and expertise in evaluating talent in the first place to get to where they are now. Or, like the previous poster said, they just market themselves quite well. Kyper’s condesending attitude and rediculous haircut do more for his image than any real football knowledge or insight he has.

          • terencem

            Soler is a crazy athletic teenager who can pound the ball. He held his own against international players many years older than him and far more experienced than him. If he were a high school senior in America, he’d easily be a top 10 draft pick. That’s how much scouts love him.

  • Spencer

    It’d be cool if the Cubs got him. I think Rizzo is probably the centerpiece of the offseason, though.

    • Brett

      Not that it means everything, but, if my memory is correct, all major prospect rankers said they’d have Soler ahead of Rizzo. And getting Rizzo meant giving up Cashner. Soler would cost only money.

      • DocWimsey

        To an extent, it’s like worrying about whether you rank John ahead of Paul or vice-versa. If you want The Beatles, then you need both (plus a George and a Ringo).

        • hardtop

          well… not really Ringo, his WAR is quite low…. but good point.

          • SirCub

            And you would think he would be helped by the positional adjustment.

            • Brett

              Not the way Ringo played the position.

              • FromFenwayPahk

                They wouldn’t have been the fab four without Epstein managing things.

                • DannyBallgame

                  Can Byrd be Billy Preston? “Don’t let me down” has been a constant theme for the boys in blue for a while now

                • DocWimsey

                  Touché! I had completely forgotten that similarlity….

                  Do all of us at Bleacher Nation qualify as self-appointed “Fifth Cubbies”?

          • DocWimsey

            Ringo’s WAR was seriously reduced by Martin: Sir George was a great producer for most things, but his idea of percussion was equivalent to “small ball”….. 8)

          • bob

            Ringo’s WAR was really high! Just listen to some of the Pete Best tracks from “Anthology” and you’ll appreciate the difference. Without Ringo they may have become just another Gerry and the Pacemakers, only with better songwriting.

            • DocWimsey

              That’s a good point!  And, let’s face it: someone like Keith Moon simply would not have worked well with any of the others……

              Sadly, poor old Stu Sutcliffe also had a pretty low WAR…..

        • rocky8263

          The Beatles needed more cowbell.

          • bob

            want cowbell? “I Call Your Name” has a bunch!

    • ferrets_bueller

      Soler is a much better prospect than Rizzo IMO. He has more power potential, more speed, and plays a harder position…in addition to not having a known serious flaw in his swing that needs to be fixed in order for him to have success.

      • Andrew

        Perhaps better in the long run, but Rizzo being basically major league ready means more valuable to the team now and less question marks in his future I think put him ahead right now. If I had to pick one, itd be Rizzo at this point but luckily the Cubs dont have to pick just one so thats great.

      • daveyrosello

        Huh? Rizzo has popped 30+HRs in AAA, how much more power do you want to see?

        • ferrets_bueller

          Soler is possibly just slightly below the Stanton level, as far as power potential goes. Thats quite a bit more than Rizzo.

  • Cheryl

    There’s been so much hype that after a while you get to the point of saying, It’d be fine to sign hin, but we can live without him.

  • JulioZuleta

    God I hope this gets resolved soon.

    Minor note, he just turned 20 this past week.

    • Brett

      Thanks. I knew it was a late February birthday.

  • Steve

    “Solar would cost only money”

    I completely understand this concept, but we all do realize how ridiculious that sounds to the lay person right?

    • Brett

      Totally – especially when you consider how much money it is.

  • Michael

    Just prepare yourselves for the Yankees getting him. I give this offseason a D if we can’t even sign a 20 yr old prospect we want. It’ll piss me off, but at the same time, he may not ever be major league ready. He’s a prospect, and nothing more.

    • DocWimsey

      Soler is not major league ready yet, but he looks like he’ll be very good.  Regardless, we cannot look at it as “we can’t even sign a 20 year old prospect that we want” if he signs somewhere else.  Several teams want him, including big guns like the Yanks, Sox and Phils.  One team will get Soler.  It’s not like those other teams are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to the Cubs’ Hamlet!

  • Michael

    When the Yankees don’t get someone, it’s because they didn’t want him very much. They don’t get outbid. Losing out on someone like Soler is the “Cubs Way”. After all the hype Soler has generated, they better walk away with this guy. If Theo and Jed really don’t think power is important, they need to look around. Every successful team has power hitter/run producers. The fact that that they have a bunting tournament going on scares the hell outta me. Is this how we’re gonna generate runs? I mean, fundamentals are important, but you know you got a boring team when bunting tournament finalists make for good copy. Get those season tickets now fans!!

    • DocWimsey

      Like Cliff Lee? Or the posting on Yu Darvish? The Yanks can be outbid, although it takes another rich team to do it. The Yanks want Soler. The Sox want Soler. The Phil’s want Soler. Only one team will get him and it won’t be because they were the only team to want him.

  • Benjamin Raucher

    Interesting article