As first reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Chicago Cubs have signed twenty year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. This has now been confirmed by Ken Rosenthal. The amount of the bonus that Soler was inked for is unknown at this time, but we can assume that it was a boatload of money. I'll update this post when the dollar figures become available. It is assumed to be above $20 million, and it could be quite a bit higher than that.
Soler was the most sought-after international free agent since Yoenis Cespedes back in February. Many scouts actually preferred Soler to Cespedes. But while Cespedes is a twenty-six year-old player with extensive Cuban and international experience and was major-league ready, Soler is younger and far less experienced. He will have to start his United States career in the low minors, just like any other twenty year old who might have been drafted this past week.
This is a major coup for the Cubs and President Theo Epstein. It's a sign that the Ricketts will open their wallet to obtain top talent when it makes sense for the team.
Now for a word to dampen expectations.
Jorge Soler could be a very good baseball player. He's got an advanced approach at the plate for a twenty-year old. He's shown an ability to look for his pitch and take a walk when it doesn't come in international competitions. He's got good power stroke and a frame that could give him plus power in the majors. He's got good range in the outfield and a strong arm that should be a plus in right field.
If Soler were in the draft this week, he would have gone somewhere in the top eight. If everything works out, he might end up being as good as Nelson Cruz. That's pretty good. Nelson Cruz is a very good ballplayer. Maybe he'll be a little better. We just don't know yet.
He didn't get paid like it. He got paid like he was the second coming of Bryce Harper, with Larry Walker and Vladimir Guerrero tossed in. But I'm not even sure that he's a better prospect than Javier Baez or Albert Almora. I could make a case for any of those three being the top prospect in the Cubs system after Almora signs.
So why did he get an insane amount of money? Because rationing is coming and he's the last unregulated product on the shelf. Picture that we're all back in 1942 and the government has just announced sugar rationing. Every major league team has a bakery and there is one fifty pound sack of sugar left at the wholesaler that can be sold before you have to have a ration ticket. Will that fifty pound sack keep our bakery going full strength through the war? Heck no. It'll be gone in three months. Six if we're careful with it. But for all that time, our bakery is going to have an advantage over every other bakery. Sure, we're going to get more sugar, but it's going to be carefully regulated and everyone is going to get the same amount. We don't know even how much we're going to be getting in the future.
So how much is that last fifty pound sack of sugar worth? A lot. That's what happened with Soler. He's the last sack of sugar coming out of the Caribbean and everyone wanted it. It's a fine sack of sugar. High quality. Well-processed. But it's definitely not the greatest sugar we've ever seen. In fact, we used to get a sack like this every year or so. It helps our cakes and pies, but it can't do anything without other high quality ingredients.
So that's what happened here. On July 2, the new bonus caps go into effect for all international free agent signings. Starting July 2, every team gets a bonus pool, out of which they have to sign all of their amateur free agents. (These limits do not apply to players posted out of Japan, so those players will stay very, very expensive.) No team is going to be able to out-spend another. You'll get more money if you finish at the bottom of the standings, but no teams is just going to be able to just spend their way into a farm system.
That's what Soler is. He's the last fifty pound sack of sugar. He's very good, but if Houston offered you Carlos Correa for him, you'd accept and never look back. You wouldn't know that from either all the hype, or from the obscene amount of money the Cubs gave him. He could be a very good investment, or he could be the next Kei Igawa. He'll probably be one of the top 40 prospects in baseball come next spring. Top forty, not top ten. Just remember that.
But for today, celebrate. Not like you needed it, but the Cubs just gave you another reason to visit Peoria in July.
UPDATE: CBS' Jon Heyman is reporting the deal is for nine years, $30 million.