Wednesday afternoon the Cubs traded Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for closer Wade Davis. The Cubs were looking for a closer to replace the departing Aroldis Chapman and Wade Davis has been one of the best relievers in baseball. Davis going into the final year of his deal in 2017 had injury troubles in 2016 and saw his trade value diminish. Soler has all the tools to be a great player, but injuries and inconsistency have limited his actual production. The trade allows Davis a closing role on a contender and Soler a starting role to try to tap into his talent.
That’s the baseball angle of the Cubs/Royals trade completed at the Winter Meetings. This article is not about the baseball end of this trade, it’s about the attachments we all develop to the teams and players we love. As many who have read my work before probably are aware, I really like Jorge Soler. I have defended him often to those who feel he will never become a great player. People are probably sick of my assertions that Jorge can become an impact star.
The amount of information available to baseball fans in the age of social media is amazing. It is now possible to follow prospects from draft/signing through the minors all the way to the majors. When Jorge Soler escaped Cuba readers of this site and many others began speculating which team he would go to. I was thrilled when he signed with the Cubs spurning the Yankees among others.
In the past, other than an occasional mention on a broadcast or Vineline profile most people didn’t follow minor league prospects. I will fully admit before Theo Epstein and crew came to Chicago I rarely anticipated a big major league debut. Only two examples readily spring to mind, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Other prospects came with almost no notice, Corey Patterson or Starlin Castro snuck up on me.
As Jorge moved through the minors I eagerly awaited the minor league recaps with details of his performance that day. I followed through the ups and downs as Soler matriculated through the Cubs system. His bench clearing brawl in A ball, the injuries that seemed to follow him, and the insane hot streaks he went on as he helped win a minor league title in Daytona.
Following a player from the beginning gives you a different perspective as a fan. You feel more invested, like you are part of an exclusive club, buying stock in a tech startup. I was beyond pumped when Soler finally made his debut in 2014. While others probably hardly knew of Jorge I was locked in and full of anticipation. When he homered to dead center in his first at bat in Cincinnati I was hooked.
Georgie of course has never lived up to his potential in two full major league seasons. Still I was and continue to be a Soler believer even during the lean times. When the trade went down it felt worse than previous times a player I really liked moved on. Aramis Ramirez was always a favorite of mine but his trade to Milwaukee didn’t bother me nearly as much. It is part of the double-edged sword of this new era of baseball fandom.
As we the fans are able to follow players earlier and become invested in them from the beginning we will be more attached to them. The problem with that is, baseball is still a business and players will inevitably move on. It will hurt more when those players we watched grow leave for other opportunities or are traded. The question is, if players we have followed from the start will leave and disappoint us should we be following them from the start?
My answer is that I think it is worth it to follow prospects from the start. I followed the young core of this Cubs championship team as it grew through the minors. Kris Bryant from 5 strike outs in his first professional game to MVP. Addison Russell from trade piece to World Series grand slam. Javy Baez from inconsistent prospect to NLDS star. Kyle Schwarber from catching project to key World Series lineup piece. Anthony Rizzo from AAA swing adjustments to team leader.
So I’m going to keep getting attached to young prospects. Right now Willson Contreras and Eloy Jimenez are particular favorites of mine. Willson’s first game also was an exhilarating moment for Cubs fans with a first at bat homer. And yes I will keep an eye on those Kansas City Royals highlights to see Georgie's progress as a major leaguer. Because that’s what baseball is all about at least for me. The human stories of the players and the journeys they go on.
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