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 MLB.com'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.