Recent moves notwithstanding, Jorge Soler has a very big season ahead of him.
In his second full year with the big league team, Soler will look to stay healthy, stay warm and produce at the elite level he’s capable of all season long.
It’s likely that the addition of Dexter Fowler has changed the amount of starts and plate appearances Soler will get in 2016; however, with Joe Maddon as his manager, Soler will certainly be given every opportunity available to succeed.
Although, that almost wasn’t true.
As we well know, Jorge Soler was a part of several trade discussions throughout the winter, but nothing came to be. As Bruce Levine (CBS Chicago) reports, Soler was a target of the Padres, Indians and Rays this offseason. With so much smoke and reported interest, there’s no doubt these rumors were true, as least from the perspective of the interested teams. But, given the time of year and corresponding moves made since, the chance of a trade now is very, very low. Indeed, the Cubs seem motivated to hold onto Soler and tap into his extreme upside.
But what is going to happen in the meantime, now that Dexter Fowler is in the fold? According to Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe), Soler could start out the season in the minors, split time between left and right field, or be dealt to another team, “because there’s a lot of interest.”
First and foremost, I sincerely doubt that Jorge Soler will go back to AAA Iowa for any appreciable length of time, if at all. Even if he hasn’t year reached his potential, he’s far too good of a player to go back to AAA (where he had a .417 wOBA) or to leave the Cubs who can obviously use him off the bench – at a minimum.
Moreover, with his injury history and early-season discomfort in the cold, the Cubs could reasonably sit Soler more often anyway, making the outfield rotation much easier to configure. We also know that Kyle Schwarber is going to catch sometimes and that everyone will be expected to move around. There will be playing time for Jorge Soler.
But will it always be with the Cubs?
Although we fully expect the Cubs to open the season with Soler on the team, there is clearly interest coming in from all over the league. It might be tough for the Cubs to to continue ignoring it. After all, Soler does have a lot of value.
Having just turned 24 years old, Soler is one of the premier young power hitters in the league. His hard% last season, 35.9%, would have been 10th best in baseball among all MLB outfielders, if he qualified. He has patience at the plate, raw, natural power and is scheduled to make just $3 million in 2016.
With just over one year of service time under his belt, Jorge Soler won’t even be eligible for arbitration until 2018. In the two seasons until then, he’ll make just $6 million total, per Cots Contracts, before having three more seasons of arbitration-defined cost control. Soler is cheap, good, young and under control for quite some time.
But for the immediate future, I wouldn’t stress about it too much. Jorge Soler is an important part of this team and is arguably just as important to the outfield as Kyle Schwarber and Dexter Fowler are. They are each slightly safer bets than Soler, perhaps, but both come with questions of their own. But together, the three of them plus Jason Heyward form a formidable outfield rotation that is capable of a lot.
The Cubs may yet find a trade they can’t resist, but for Opening Day 2016, I’d expect to find Jorge Soler wearing a Cubs uniform.
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