When Jason Heyward officially became a member of the Cubs on Dec. 15, 2015, it gave the team a projected outfield with Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler flanking him in left and right, respectively.
Of course, that could have changed had the Cubs found a taker for Soler in a trade with a return that included a cost-controlled, front-line starter. A move like that would have also opened the door for the team to find a defensive stalwart in center, which would shift Heyward back to right field, where he won a pair of Gold Gloves, including one in 2014.
But with the Cubs’ first team workout scheduled for Feb. 24, Soler is still on the team’s roster and remains projected to be its Opening Day right fielder. By now it’s clear a deal of the Cubs’ liking never materialized.
In July 2015, Fangraphs shared its annual list of 50 most valuable trade chips. Listed at No. 50 was Soler, who FanGraphs notes is under team control through 2020 at a minimum guarantee of $18 million and a projected five-year WAR of +12.6. Here is a snippet about Soler from Dave Cameron’s trade value primer:
“Soler remains one of the most intriguing young power hitters in the game, and a few hundred poor at-bats doesn’t wipe away the tools and the minor league performance. He’s still just 23, and while his contact problems might keep him from ever becoming an elite player, he looks like a quality above average regular for the foreseeable future. And he possesses the skillset that teams will overpay to acquire, as young middle-of-the-order hitters are just not really available on the market anymore.”
It’s notable that two players who were in July 2015’s top 50 – Todd Frazier (46) and Andrelton Simmons (30) – were traded this offseason.
The Frazier deal involved three teams moving a combined total of five organizational top-30 prospects. Infielder Jose Peraza and outfielder Scott Schebler became the Reds’ first and 13th best prospects, while right-handed pitcher Frankie Montas, second baseman Micah Johnson and outfielder Trayce Thompson became the Dodgers’ fourth, eighth and 13th best prospects. The Simmons deal netted the Braves two top-10 organizational prospects in left-handed pitcher Sean Newcomb (first) and right-hander Chris Ellis (ninth).
It became obvious early in the offseason that moving a trade chip of Soler’s caliber was going to cost the team acquiring him pretty penny. And frankly, there are not too many teams willing to make that kind of a deal. Indeed, few have that kind of currency to give up in the first place.
Myers had already helped the Royals land James Shields and Wade Davis prior to this particular ranking. Heyward was the main piece that sent Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins from the Cardinals to the Braves. Craig went to Boston as part of a deal that netted the Cardinals John Lackey (notably, when he was set to cost the Major League minimum the next year). Austin Jackson was a piece the Tigers dealt (along with prospects and some help from the Mariners) for David Price. Even Carlos Gomez helped the Brewers get two of the Astros’ better pitching prospects in Adrian Houser (Astros 21st, MLB.com) and Josh Hader (Astros 14th, MLB.com).
We knew the price of pitching would be high going into the offseason and the contracts received by Zack Greinke, David Price and others blew those expectations out of the waters. But what we might have overlooked in the process was the value of the cost-controlled hitters that were supposed to be used to acquire pitching in the trade market.
Soler was, and remains, an incredibly valuable asset. Acquiring him was always going to be a tall task.
And now, instead, Cubs fans simply get to look ahead to his possible breakout in 2016.