It has been seven years since the Cubs landed a player they thought would become a long-term linchpin. On June 11, 2012, they won the bidding for free-agent Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. At least a few teams bid upward of $20MM for Soler, who had just turned 20 a few months prior, but Chicago emerged victorious with a nine-year, $30MM offer. At the time, Soler was seen as a top 50 prospect in the sport.
The power-hitting Soler tore through the Cubs’ minor league system beginning the summer he signed and wound up debuting in Chicago two years later. When the Cubs promoted him late in the 2014 season, Soler was even more of a celebrated prospect. He justified the hype initially, slashing a strong .292/.330/.573 (148 wRC+) with five home runs in 97 plate appearances. Thanks to that run, Soler cemented himself as the Cubs’ everyday right fielder heading into 2015; however, his numbers took a dive that season, during which he hit .262/.324/.399 (95 wRC+) with 10 homers in 404 trips to the plate.
Despite his underwhelming output in 2015, Soler was once again in the Cubs’ season-opening lineup in ’16. The franchise ultimately won its first World Series in 108 years that season, but Soler didn’t play a huge role. While Soler turned in decent production in the regular campaign and the playoffs, injuries helped limit him to 264 PA during the season. After celebrating their championship that fall, the Cubs elected to part with Soler, deciding there was no longer a place for him in an outfield that also had Ben Zobrist, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay and Matt Szczur in the fold.
On Dec. 7, 2016, just over a month after it won the World Series, Chicago traded Soler to the Royals for reliever Wade Davis. Although Davis only had another year of control left, the Cubs needed a replacement for departed closer Aroldis Chapman. That helped deem Soler expendable in the Cubs’ eyes, and though Davis lasted just one season in their uniform, they haven’t really missed Soler.
Since he joined the Royals in 2017, Soler has batted .234/.310/.450 (101 wRC+) and swatted 28 HRs in 633 attempts. Soler was particularly subpar during his first year in KC, in which he endured a lengthy minor league demotion, but bounced back in 2018 before suffering a season-ending left toe fracture in mid-June. In his return from that injury, Soler’s once again giving the Royals respectable offensive production this season, though his paltry .293 on-base percentage somewhat overshadows his 17 homers. The same is true of Soler’s defense (minus-7 DRS, minus-2.0 UZR), which has graded negatively for most of his time in the majors.
Considering how much excitement there was when Soler signed with the Cubs, the 27-year-old has posted a somewhat disappointing big league career. Soler may move on to a third team soon, given rumors that the non-contending Royals are open to trading just about anyone on their roster. Wherever he plays next season, it’ll be the final year of the contract Soler agreed to with the Cubs seven years ago.