Is Soler the real Cubs top Cuban target?

Forgive me if I'm a little skeptical.  Information isn't as easy to come by with this new front office.  Jim Hendry wore his intentions on his sleeve.  If he said he was going after Yoenis Cespedes, then you could be pretty sure this is exactly what he was doing.  I'm not entirely convinced that this is the case with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.  They let everyone believe they would pursue Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, when all the while they were  planning to make moves to aid this team long term.  They also said they wouldn't trade Sean Marshall, just a week before they did.  Did they make everyone believe they were going after Yoenis Cespedes when the real top target has been Jorge Soler all along?

The following statement should come as no surprise to our readers, but Kevin Goldstein reports via Twitter,

Rumors out of the DR today that the Cubs are making a very very big play for Jorge Soler.

In our poll, 54% of our readers believed that Jorge Soler would be the Cuban player the Cubs would sign.  Since that poll started, the Cubs have signed Gerardo Concepcion and then were rumored to be in heavy pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes, but Soler has remained the leader on this site.

We have speculated since mid-November that Soler would make the better long term fit.  None of us would have been at all disappointed if Cespedes was the Cubs man in the end, but many of us not-so-secretly harbored the opinion that we'd rather have Soler if we had to choose one or the other.  Of course, there's nothing that says the Cubs can't try and get both, and that seems like what they intend to do, but I can't help but wonder if maybe Soler is their top target.

It makes sense for a number of reasons.   The first is that he is cheaper, although not by a whole lot.  According to's Joe Frisaro, two sources have said the Cubs willing to go as high as $27.5M for Soler.  If that is the case, that'll be a tough number to beat considering the risk involved.  He's also younger (20) and more likely to peak when the Cubs are ready to win.  Soler will probably sign a minor league deal which would save the Cubs from having to make a roster move.  He's also more likely to provide a commodity that the organization is in short supply in this organization: raw power.  As far as power hitters go, the Cubs have Anthony Rizzo and Dan Vogelbach from the left side with Reggie Golden and Javier Baez from the right side.  Only Rizzo has played higher than short season ball.  It's definitely a concern.  Soler would also likely start in short season A ball, perhaps in Class A Peoria, but the more players the Cubs have at those levels, the greater the possibility one of them will pan out and reach their potential.

That was the thinking when we first heard of Soler.  The next development that had me wondering was the relatively minor signing of Cuban outfielder Yasiel Balaguert for $400,000.  He's an MLB prospect, but not nearly at the level of Soler.  He has some athleticism but doesn't have an ideal MLB body, he doesn't figure to stick in CF, nor does he have the power to profile in a corner.  He's an aggressive hitter who does have some skills, but perhaps his greatest asset is this: He played CF on the same Junior National team in which Jorge Soler played RF.

Could he and Soler help each other transition to life in the U.S. and MLB minors?  Maybe.  It probably doesn't mean a whole lot, but it certainly can't hurt.  They are about the same age and would probably start at the same level.

He wouldn't have the immediate impact that Cespedes would and he's a bigger risk in the sense that there's a decent chance he never makes the majors at all, but Soler, while being a different kind of player, may have as much potential or more than his more hyped countryman.  It's just going to take him longer to get there.  While Cespedes may need just a couple of months in the minors, Soler would likely need around 4 years.

He would immediately become the Cubs top prospect and perhaps as high as a top 20 prospect in all of baseball.  Goldstein speculated that he would be drafted "in the single digits" if here were eligible.

Here is some more information on Soler from Goldstein via Tony Andracki of CSN, who went through the trouble of transcribing his interview on MLB Network Radio.

"He has some paperwork issues just like Cespedes does," Goldstein said. "He profiles as a very classic right-field profile on a scouting level. He's a big, athletic kid. He ran well for scouts. He ran a 6.7 60 for them the other week, which is above average. At his age and his size, that's not going to last. He just doesn't look like a guy that's going to stay fast.

"What he's going to be is a right fielder who's gonna hit for power. He's gonna throw well, hit home runs. That's going to be his job. Big, big kid. Broad shoulders, tons of raw power. He's a very exciting player...I think it's important -- and same with Concepcion -- to talk about how they are different from Cespedes.

"I think for Soler, his most logical assignment, based on his youth experience and talent, would be Low-A ball...[Soler and Concepcion] are not guys who are going to help you this year. These are not guys who are going to help you in 2013 and probably not 2014. These are long-term players. These are guys who you hope can turn into impact players, but they're not even close to that yet."

Additionally, there is this information from Ben Badler of Baseball America,

Listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds at Thunder Bay, Soler stands out for his thick, physical build and strength. Power is Soler's best tool, as he shows great bat speed, the ability to hit balls out to all fields and the potential to hit 25 home runs per year. While scouts like his power and some like his swing, he bars his front arm and the stiffness in his stroke is a concern for some scouts. Scouts have offered differing opinions on his ability to hit breaking balls, but he has a history of laying off pitches outside the strike zone in international competition and has more on-base potential than Cespedes.

Like Goldstein, Badler also has heard from scouts that they don't believe Soler will maintain his above average speed as he gets older and grows stronger.  He's more likely to be an average runner as he matures.  Badler believes Soler would start at one of the Class A levels.

I'm going to reiterate that I won't be disappointed that if, in the end, the Cubs prefer Yoenis Cespedes over Jorge Soler.  There are many reasons to do so.  He's the better athlete, probably the better all-around player, and he's much closer to being an MLB player.  But after all the rumors about the Cubs going all out to land Cespedes, would it surprise anyone if the Cubs were playing a little misdirection and signed Soler instead?

Frisaro is already reporting that the Marlins are now the clear leaders even though they're only willing to go $30-35M.  It would seem that if that were the case, the Cubs could jump in and steal him with an aggressive offer, but they haven't.  No other meetings have been set up with any other teams, which presumably includes the Cubs.  As soon as the Marlins became serious, the Cubs didn't step up to beat that offer.  As soon as all eyes were pointed toward Cespedes, the Cubs turned immediately to Soler.



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    John, i would not be too opposed to Cespedes but all along I would have preferred signing Soler and Concepcion they are both younger and essentially lower risks and higher ceilings..Is Cespededes really 26??? I bet you Soriano is older than the 36 he says he is..those other 2 are still young so even if they are a year or two older than they say, it's still safe..If Cespedes is really 28 or 29 it makes a big difference especially with his type of build.

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I think many of us did from the get-go. I first wrote about Soler in mid-November and I think a lot of us (including yourself, I'm sure) really liked that idea better than Cespedes because of age, price, and similar potential.

    My theory on Cubans is that their ages are far more likely to be accurate for one reason: unlike the DR, Cuba doesn't want their players going to play MLB. Why would they list them as younger and make them more attractive to MLB teams? I think it's almost a non-issue. The same goes for players from the Pacific Rim.

  • I think the Cubs are fooling everyone like they have on everything this year and i wouldn't be surprised if they sign Soler first and then later sign Cespedes

  • In reply to Tyler:

    Nothing would surprise me at this point, but I think Cespedes is closer to being a FA than Soler.

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    This is the move that i am waiting for, it may take him a decade to get to the majors, but i still believe he will be better than cespedes is. All though i would like to see all three signed to the cubs would have been excellent. That in my opinion would have guaranteed the cubs a major foothold in the DR.

  • In reply to Larry:

    Agreed. He does have a good chance to have the better career. It's very exciting to see how serious the Cubs are about bringing in top young talent.

  • John,
    This might be a bit off-topic but what do you think the plan is - medium and long term- to bring in impact arms to the rotation?

    With the acquisition of Rizzo, likely ascendancy of B Jackson, possible Soler signing , Jedstein is slowly putting the pieces together of a nice everyday core.

    This begs the question where are the arms gonna come from?Obviously, a resolution, one way or the other, of the Garza situation looms large. I'm not thrilled with the upside of our upper level arms, save MAYBE McNutt. How soon do we make a push for a high profile arm in FA? Do we realistically have any more trade chips to acquire high-upside arms? These are all critical questions.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    McNutt, Maples, and maybe Wells and Rhee have some upside but I imagine the Cubs will continue to look at every angle, from the draft to international signings to trades and free agency. I think trades for guys like Wood, Volstad are the short term. They'll look for decent arms that they can buy low on and control for awhile. Long term it may be bigger trades and FAs if they don't find a couple of front line starters from other avenues tomorrow.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    One FA I think they might look in on next year might be Anibal Sanchez. Under valued buy but easily a 3rd starter and maybe a 2.

  • I still want both. The Cubs need impact amateur talent and these are the last few months that they can exploit their market size to get it. They've shed about $30M per year in major league payroll this offseason. Even if they signed both, they would come in less expensive in 2012 than they were in 2011. Do whatever it takes.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    No doubt. Get as much talent as you can while you still can.

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    I think the draft will tell us in what direction they will. I personally think they need to concentrate on arms, it looks like we have some good position players coming up, but no major league arms at all. Lets hope the front office can to it again.

  • In reply to Larry:

    College hitters are a bit weak in this draft and that's something that Theo and Co. usually feel comfortable drafting. There's a couple of good college arms that should fall to them, so it's very possible they go pitching.

  • Once again, great article. Didn't even think about cespedes being on the 40-man. I assumed the cubs were going after both, big-time, based on what i've read. I'll be blown away if they get soler & don't even go after cespedes. I, too, vote for soler & cespedes would be nice but not necessary. Keep up the great work!

  • In reply to MikeyB:

    Thanks Mikey. It's still possible Soler would want a major league deal, even though he's about 4 years away. It would probably have to be a 5 or 6 year deal. It's not ideal, but that seems to be the market right now.

    Even if that happens, he still has the advantage of youth on his side. According to Joe Frisaro, Cubs are no longer really in the mix for Cespedes.

  • I think they are working on both, but Soler is the real prize

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I hope they try to get both, definitely agree Soler is the bigger prize for them and the better fit long term. I have to say I find it curious that if the Marlins offer is as low as reported 30-35M - then why haven't the Cubs jumped in with an aggressive offer? That's another thing that makes me believe Soler was the target all along.

  • i would love to have soler and cespedes. either one would be fantastic, but ultimately i prefer soler.

    at this point it looks like we are in a very good position to get at least one of them to join concepcion. this bodes very well for our future with signing cuban prospects because what other teams dont realize is that the cubs are making their presence known there. we've already signed 2 low key cuban players to go along with the concepcion signing.

    once the new cba kicks in most teams are going to be willing to offer foreign prospects the same types of deals for the same type of money, the thing that will seperate the cubs from the other teams is that we have established our presence with the cubans. obviously the plan is to treat these players gracefully and have them tell future prospects how great the organization is as a recruiting tool, other teams will not have this advantage. so regardless of who we land, cespedes or soler i think ultimately signing either one to join the players we've already signed will help us in the future to deal with the new cba, take that rheinsdork!

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    That's a great point about establishing a presence and gaining an edge and I was actually thinking along the same lines-- even to the point of writing an article on it. Maybe a bit down the road.

    Someone like Soler will cement their status in Cuba, although I think the Concepcion signing and to a much lesser extent, Balaguert this year and Del Valle last year, showed the Cubs are players there. The signings of Acosta and Candelario helped show they were serious in the Dominican and Malave and Penalver did the same in Venezuela.

    I think you have to consider the Cubs major players already, but no doubt Soler would be the biggest name/talent yet -- that would really be a splash. You'd have to think if the money is close enough, the Cubs could have an edge in the future because of the Cuban and other Latin American talent they'll already have in their system. That's something they haven't had in a while.

  • Agree, many articles on the Cubs being close to getting Soler?

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    Whoa. Tim Brown is reporting the A's have signed Cespedes! 6 years, 36 million. Crazy times.

  • In reply to jdlf:

    The "mystery team" strikes again!

    Unfortunately this may give the Cubs more competition from the Marlins for Solar's services.

  • In reply to jdlf:

    Yep! Completely shocked. Deal is for 4 years though and then he will be made a FA. Not sure Cubs wanted to touch that.

  • I believe its a 4yr deal

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    It is...not just that, but A's agreed not to offer arb, making him a FA.

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    Tribune is reporting Cubs signed Soler for $27.5m

  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    Interesting, but I'm not sure how that's possible unless it's some sort of handshake agreement. I'm going to hold off on it for a bit until it's confirmed.

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