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In mid-February, an otherwise innocuous report from Dave van Dyke, citing rumors out of the Dominican Republic, claimed that the Chicago Cubs had come to an agreement with big-time Cuban prospect Jorge Soler, who had defected to the DR. The report, which noted a specific signing amount ($27.5 million), set off a chain reaction of reports, retractions, commentary, etc. Soler was not yet eligible to sign at that time (indeed, he remains ineligible), so there was a vast ocean of gray in which writers could tread, claiming there was no deal.

You’ll recall, at least one source suggested we were going to hear a great deal of spin suggesting that the Cubs and Soler didn’t have any kind of understanding, primarily because the Cubs feared they could get into some trouble if they had indeed made such an agreement before Soler was actually eligible to sign. From last month:

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.”

For my part, a source told me the Cubs and Soler’s representatives had an understanding of what an acceptable agreement would look like once Soler was eligible to sign, but I could not find a source willing to tell me that Soler’s representatives were not still negotiating with anyone else. A decent report, but far from certainty.

Things quieted down considerably from there, and, as Arangure predicted, there were a number of rumors about other teams working out Soler, and about the Cubs losing their “lead.” Then, this week, Peter Gammons started another chain of reports by tweeting that an international scouting director told him that Soler is probably going to eventually wind up with the Cubs.

Now, Phil Rogers has offered his two cents, reporting the following:

Even though the process drags on, the drama has seeped out of the Jorge Soler derby. An executive with a team that had been pursuing him says he believes the reports that Soler has agreed to a $27-million deal with the Cubs. The feeling is they blew away the competition in bidding for the 19-year-old center fielder, using a war chest they had accumulated by cutting the 2012 payroll with an eye on the future.

Nice to hear, obviously, and a little more smoke. But, because of the way this has played out – and because Soler remains ineligible to sign while he awaits residency in the DR – I’ll again preach optimistic caution. My position remains largely unchanged from where it was last month:

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.

  • Cliffy

    if you want to see what Jorge Soler Would look like in a Cubs uniform look at Junior Lake

  • ferrets_bueller

    Jorge Soler? Who is that?  What, Rickets is too cheap to pay for old, proven past performers like Pujols, but he’ll dish out for this?  We need to win NOWWWWWW.

     

     

    Lulz.

  • Bric

    “Cubs smoke”- Brett, are you having Soto guest post articles for you?

  • Cheryl

    Cubs will be very competitive this year, but probsbly won’t go deep into the playoffs until next year.

    • Quintzy

      Huh? Competitive this year and deep into playoffs next year? I genuinely envy insanity.

  • Matt

    I strongly feel the was the guy they targeted, all along. Are than any college arms that profile to fit for us at 6, besides Zimmer & Appel- who I’m pretty familiar with? We’re slowly heading in the right direction but need some power arms in the rotation.

    • Bric

      I’ve read that Appel probably won’t be there be 6 and Zimmer is projected way lower in the first round. A couple of names that should probably be there are Chris Beck, Kevin Gausman, and Brian Johnson. Stroman’s another college name to look at. Supposedly only has one pitch but hits the high 90’s with regularity. The Cubs should have plenty of good choices if they want a college pitcher at 6.

      Side note- is it just me or does that one grainy pic of Solar (the only image out there apparently) remind anybody else of that old 1970’s footage of bigfoot? Are we sure this guy really even exists?

      • Eric

        Some folks over at pro sports daily really like Gausman. Infact some like him even more than Appel. Saying Gausman hit 102mph. Gausman might not make it to pick #6 either, if he’s starting to look really good.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      There have been a few publications that have tried to project the first round of the draft already, but at this point it is all pure nonsense.  It is far, far, far too early to project much of anything.

      Coming into the college season, there were a lot of reports that this draft would have a clear Top 5 (the Cubs, of course, pick #6), but even that was debated.

      I will be doing some pre-draft coverage here, but I probably won’t do very much until late April or early May.

      • DocWimsey

        Keith Law periodically holds mock drafts as they would be today: and then scoffs at the notion that they’ll wind up like that. His real purpose is to show how far guys stocks rise/fall over the course of the year. It’s a useful exercise, and probably ones to which big league teams should pay attention: what is the success rate of the more volatile guys on that list?

  • DocWimsey

    It is impossible to research, but to what extent has the internet’s huge expansion of publicized speculation made rumors like this so tangible? It looks like a perfect Grimmsian experiment to me: the original rumor that Soler was signing with the Cubs for $27M (which, if I recall, is suspiciously similar to the $$$ the Cubs supposedly were offering Cespedes) just constantly evolved?

    This happened a couple of years ago with rumors that Brian Roberts was going to be traded. The rumors seemed to be fueled by fans from other teams thinking that: A) Roberts would be goo on their team, and, B) the rebuilding Orioles needed to dump a veteran for prospects. Of course, the truth was C) Angelos flatly told MacPhail that under no circumstances was Roberts to be traded. Yet the rumors lingered forever, it seems.

    • Bric

      Doc, you’re an evolutionary biologist- is Jorge Solar bigfoot?

      • DocWimsey

        At this point, he’s more like Schrödinger’s Cat; but ask a physicist!

        • ferrets_bueller

  • SteveO

    Rogers might be the worst writer at the Trib. It seems like he is all about opinion and backing up said opinion. No news.

  • ty

    Over at Angels Park in Tempe and ran into an scout friend who said the trading away of shortstop Lee may be our mistake of the decade. I saw him play a lot and well remember plays at short ending up 6 foot on 2nd base side and these were fairly common–but he looked so weak at the plate–got to remember babies grow up..Only comment about Angels is “oh, my goodness” andI am not even including monster man.

  • Kyle

    As excited as I am about Epstein and company, and as impressed as I am with their ability to formulate and execute a coherent plan, I think we have to be a little careful here singing the hosannas and getting worked up into a frenzy.

    There’s an unwritten equation to prospects. The prospects who become MLB players provide 10s of millions of dollars in surplus value. Starlin Castro will be a SS easily worth eight figures on the open market this year, and he’ll make $500k. You get six years of that.

    But prospects also have an incredibly high attrition rate. Only 50% of first-round picks will ever get a cup of coffee. Only about 1 in 4 become regular starters. And the success rate for lower-rated prospects is much, much lower than that.

    You spend $X on a prospect, knowing that he has a Y% chance of providing you Z amount of value. If YxZ > X, you got a great deal.

    The Cubs are blowing people out of the water on these prospects. They are spending far more than any other team wants to spend on them. It started last year with the draft, where we gave 7-figure signing bonuses to prospects that virtually nobody else thought was worth a seven-figure deal. Even worth, with Concepcion and potentially Soler, we are handing out major-league deals that mean they will be getting paid more every step of the way. Like Samardzija, there’s no 500k/year seasons upcoming for these guys.

    That changes the equation significantly. In order for this approach to be profitable (in terms of wins and losses) and correct, Epstein and company have to be right about the prospects they sign. They have to hit on a high percentage of their prospect choices, both in the draft and IFA. They need to look at a guy like Soler and say “Guys as highly regarded as him usually have a 1 in 4 chance of making the majors as a regular, but we see something in our scouting reports that make him closer to 1 in 2.”

    I’m optimistic that they can maintain that kind of success rate in scouting and development. I am not, however, certain of it. Their track record in Boston, for example, was that they had an extremely high sucess rate in the early years, but it had started to slip a little bit (though part of that was because they were drafting very late and focusing more money on the big-league club).

    • JasonB

      Appreciate the sanity check but I’ll put one caveat on it

      The last two years, Hoyer and McLeod were in charge of the Padres.  During that time, they have turned a farm system rated in the bottom half of the league into what is widely regarded as a top 5 system and that is considered to be the best by some.

      Appropriate caveats about whether or not those prospects will ultimately pan out, as you suggested, still apply.

    • DocWimsey

      The Sox also traded quite a few good prospects to get established big leaguers. However, you are correct that their success rate decreased, too. Really, it gets down to the numbers: the denominator is pretty constant, but just a difference in one or two successes has a huge effect on the numerator. With such low rates of success, there is always going to be a huge luck factor even with the smartest of recruitment strategies.

      That being stated, the Cubs recruitment strategies were not smart over the last decade, especially relative to the Sox. (The Sox have gotten more WAR from guys drafted from 2001 onwards than any other team: and that does not count “purchased” WAR from trading prospects for vets.) Hopefully, that will change now.

  • jr5

    And that other team’s international scouting director probably has a lot to gain by implying the Cubs have a deal in place before they’re technically allowed to. Nothing to lose by perpetuating that theory, and it might hurt the Cubs.

  • Sayueri

    I think Soler’s agreement with the Cubs comes down to “dibs”. The Cubs are likely his preferred destination. So, the Cubs would be first in line to negotiate with him and last to get a chance to outbid any other teams.

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