While it’s been a tough season for the Royals as a team, Jorge Soler has emerged as a bright spot in the heart of the lineup, hitting .262/.352/.555 with 45 home runs in a career-high 668 plate appearances. Long one of the game’s top hitting prospects, the now-27-year-old Soler (28 in February) has finally displayed the enormous raw power that garnered so much praise as a minor leaguer. Kansas City still controls Soler through 2021, but MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes in his latest Royals inbox column that he’s “convinced” the team will offer Soler an extension this winter.
Soler’s current contractual status is a bit unique, as he signed a nine-year, $30MM contract with the Cubs back in 2012 when he was just 20 years old. International free agency wasn’t nearly as restricted then as it is now — under current rules, he’d have been limited to a minor league deal and likely garnered a signing bonus worth less than a quarter of that guarantee — and the Cubs committed both a lengthy term and sizable guarantee despite knowing he’d need to log time in the minors.
Soler is “signed” for the 2020 season at just $4MM, but he can opt out of that guaranteed salary and into MLB’s arbitration process this winter, as is the case with many Cuban defectors who signed Major League deals under the previous international free agency infrastructure. Based on his 45-homer campaign, he’s a lock to do just that. Arbitration raises for international players who opt out of this type of arrangement haven’t always been as steep as one might expect, but Soler will clearly top a $4MM salary. And since he’d be arb-eligible again in 2021, his salary for that season would be dependent on the size of the raise he gets in arbitration this winter.
All of that would be rendered moot in the event of a new long-term arrangement, though. Soler and the Royals will surely be talking contract when arbitration figures are exchanged in January, and that seems like a reasonable point at which the two sides could avoid a particularly tricky arbitration case with a multi-year arrangement. If not then, Spring Training extensions are commonplace.
There’s good reason for both parties to be amenable to a deal. Soler has banked a substantial sum in his career already but has yet to lock in a multi-year deal that pays him anywhere near open-market prices. The Royals, meanwhile, are aiming for a return to contention in 2021, and losing their top slugger at the end of that season would be a step backward. Soler is currently on track to become a free agent in advance of his age-30 season, so the Royals would be acquiring some additional prime years in a theoretical long-term deal.
The price of Soler’s would-be free-agent seasons is up for debate. Nelson Cruz has played each of the past five seasons (2019 included) for an annual rate around $14.25MM. He was considerably older than Soler when he signed a four-year, $57MM deal with the Mariners and his most recent one year, $14.3MM deal with the Twins. Edwin Encarnacion secured a $20MM annual rate in his three-year deal with the Indians — a contract that began with his age-33 season. Both right-handed sluggers had considerably longer track records of productivity than does Soler when they signed their contracts, though, and both had the benefit of an open-market setting. Soler didn’t even log a full big league season with Kansas City in either 2017 or 2018, posting a combined .228/.322/.403 batting line through 367 plate appearances across those two years.
Any power hitter’s production in 2019 is also going to be met with some skepticism as a result of this year’s explosive ball. That’s not to say the Royals should expect Soler to turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes midnight on the 2019 season, but they’d be justified in pondering to what extent his power might scale back if the 2020 ball is more in line with previous seasons.
The length of an extension, of course, will be the other key part of the debate. Recent extensions for players with between four and five years of service time include Randal Grichuk and Jean Segura, both of whom signed away three free-agent seasons in addition to their remaining two arbitration years. Segura’s deal included an option for another year. In the case of Soler, who has a limited track record and notable injury history, a contract that exceeds five seasons in length seems like a reach. A total of five guaranteed years seems attainable.
Perhaps the biggest wild card in forecasting a possible extension value for Soler lies in the how his arbitration seasons are valued. As we saw with Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig and others, this type of contract is handled atypically in arbitration. Abreu hit .293/.353/.468 with 25 home runs the year before he opted into arbitration, and his salary only rose from $10MM to $10.825MM. A year later, he received a raise barely north of $2MM after posting an outstanding .304/.354/.552 slash with 33 homers. Puig, meanwhile, opted into arbitration last winter when he reached five-plus years of service time and, working from a smaller 2018 base salary of $6.5MM, jumped up to $9.7MM. He’d have earned $7.5MM had he stuck with his initial contract.
Depending on how Soler’s arbitration seasons are valued, Grichuk’s five-year, $52MM contract could be a particularly relevant comparison. They’re different types of players, of course, but their final two arb seasons could fall within the same ballpark. The roughly $13MM annual rate at which Grichuk’s free-agent seasons were valued in his extension could also be a point of reference Soler’s camp seeks to top; doing so would put him in Cruz territory for the average annual value of his free-agent seasons. I’d imagine Soler would do a bit better than Grichuk in terms of overall guarantee, but something in that general vicinity seems like a plausible landing point for the burgeoning slugger.
23yr/1.3 billion total
This guy has made a nice amount of money for basically an underachieving career and he has one fluke season and they want to give him more money? Amazing
It’s a large jump but “fluke” is a harsh word. Anyone who has ever watched him play will tell you this potential was always there. Dude is an absolute freak raw talent, it was just a matter of when/if he’d put it all together. That’s not to say that he won’t go back to 2017-2018 Soler next year, that’s definitely a risk, but he improved substantially as the season went along and is starting to actually get base hits instead of being a “three true options” guy the last several weeks. He’s not chasing junk, he’s taking his walks when guys won’t pitch to him and starting to actually have a situational approach with two strikes or when all we need is a lousy single to win a game instead of trying to hit it 500 feet with every swing.
The juiced balls and playing for a non contender has helped him I’m sure. There is a lot less pressure to produce in Kansas City than there was in Chicago. Also he has a long injury history. He should absolutely not be given an extension unless he can repeat this years numbers
Juiced balls helped Soler? Do you even watch baseball? Read my post about his raw power and lack of playing time with the cubs. The cubs decision to replace Soler with Heyward might be one of the worst decisions in their history. $184MM to catch flyballs and hit 15HRs a year. Now the cubs realize their mistake and trade for Castellanos. The reason trades never work out for Epstein is his evaluation process stinks. He’s too focused on core players doing all the heavy lifting. He’s given away all the role players and depth that made the cubs so formidable.
No, Soler and Heyward were both on the 2016 team. Soler could not stay off the DL and was a replacement level player for them in 2015 and 2016. (He did kill the Cards in the 2015 NLDS.)
Heyward was signed as the CF. Fowwer fell back in their laps during spring training. Schwarber was still in the catching picture and he was to learn the OF to get time. They eventually chose Schwarber over Soler as Jorge is a worse defender than Kyle.
Heyward was signed to become the RF everyday. Nice try at revising history.
Actually if you google “Cubs sign Jason Heyward” the first three articles that come up (MLB.com, SI.com and MLB Trade Rumors) all talk about the Cubs moving him to center.
Wrong, chisoxcity. Fowler was a free agent after the 2015 season and almost signed long term with the Orioles. Who was the Cubs CF going to be if Fowler did not come back in a surprise signing for one year at the start of spring training? Not Soler nor Schwarber nor Coghlan who was traded to Oakland when they signed Fowler.
You guys are quoting the press. The point is, Soler was never given enough playing time with the cubs. They would have benefited from a little patience and commitment to him. This isn’t hindsight, this is a player living up to his scouting projections as a prolific run producer. If anybody’s a bust, it’s Heyward.
Sorry, the world couldn’t stop for Soler to figure it out with the Cubs. I’m glad he got the chance to develop with KC in 2017-2018 The Cubs had other young OUTFIELDERS to utilize at the time that helped them win a lot of ballgames.
ChiSoxCity. Wrong again. Heyward was to be the starting centerfielder until Fowler came back. Nice try in your attempt to revise history
One “fluke” season? If you didn’t see the raw talent this kid had when he first came up with the cubs, you’re clueless. There’s no hope for you ever being a knowledgeable baseball fan.
I saw it immediately. I also saw, however, a lack of commitment from the cubs to get him in the lineup everyday. Sure he got injured, it happens to every player. But the cubs were never willing to give him consistent playing time. As a result, he lost motivation and got buried on the bench. The Royals gave him the playing time, and he has knocked the cover off the ball. Meanwhile, the cubs end up trading for Nick Castellanos, a corner OF with a similar skillset and a pending FA. It really demonstrates Epstein’s greatest weakness: evaluating big league players. He’s great with position player prospects. Not nearly good enough when it comes to trades, FAs and new contracts.
More than likely he was a huge fan of his, until the Cubs traded him.
No I’m a Sox fan didn’t like him then and don’t like him now. But thanks for assuming
hahaha chisox city makes a post. jjd002 responds to that post (and says exactly what i was thinking) then user chicagofan1978 responds to the reply as if he were chisoxcity. did we just sniff out someone using two usernames to comment on cubs articles?
I’ll take that as an insult.
not a fluke. Anyone who has followed this guy knows that a breakout was only a matter of playing time and health, albeit 45 HRs exceeded what I and probably most others would have speculated. He’ll have his ups and downs no doubt, but give him a full season and I feel you can book him for 30/100 every year for a while
The consensus power grades Soler had when the Cubs signed him were 70-75 out of 80. This is no fluke, he’s just been injured a lot.
Haa look at your username “chicagofan1978” butthurt much? Dude leave it alone, you just come off as a loser…
As of 6 months ago Soler was considered a bust. To believe 2019 is a fluke isn’t out of the question.
Considered a bust by ignorant cubs fans no doubt. They’re second to Yankees fans as the least knowledgeable in the MLB.
Why are you a Sox fan defending a player on an actual rival and badmouthing a team that means nothing to us in the standing? You and chi town are only here to bash the Cubs and we all know it. Maybe Steve Adams should put you in timeout too
Yeah, I’m a Sox fan. I’m also a student of the game; a baseball fan. That’s why. I’m not some koolaid drinking thumbsucker using a baseball team as a blanket of security.
ChiSoxCity, you are not a student of the game. You are a CHOOOOOOCH!
Right. Do I know you mate?
ChiSoxCity it is obvious if anyone lacks the baseball knowledge if is not Cubs or Yankees fans but yourself. Your posts are constantly evidence of that.
ChiSoxCity … did you call yourself a student of the game? Hahaha. Ok you get an F.
Ha ha, you got jokes? Don’t quit your day job, if you even have one.
Your posts are “constantly evidence” of a third grade education.
One of the most lopsided trade ever in recent history. Soler for one measly year of Wade Davis.
Not really, Davis is the reason they reached the NLCS in ‘17. You sir, however, are a CHOOOOCH.
I bet that koolaid tastes super sweet.
And I bet Jerry’s schtick* does too. You would know, you’re on your knees so much. CHOOOOOOOCH. (Since when are you Australian?)
As a Royals fan, I would do 5/52 all day long. Cheaper than what we’d pay on the open market for those numbers, cheap enough that if Soler proves to be lightning in a bottle it’s not crippling, cheap enough that if he continues to slug and we’re not going anywhere the contract can be traded yet gives Soler some financial security and he avoids the uncertain waters of free agency especially for defensively-limited sluggers with red flags on their resume.
To be clear, I think the total would come in closer to $60MM; Grichuk’s deal was presented more as a baseline than anything else.
The Royals can control him for two seasons more, and while the exact number is extremely hard to forecast thanks to arbitration’s handling of Major League deals signed by Cuban free agents, the number will very likely come in under 20.
I think the question KC has to ask is whether they’d commit something like ~$14MM annually to three free-agent seasons to prevent Soler from leaving in two years. If they wait another year and he rakes again, the price will have soared and he’ll be so close to free agency that he might prefer to just bet on himself.
I’ve a question that sort pertains to Soler. What happens if they change the ball back to pre-2019 and/or home runs become much more scarce? But, arb cases and FA signings base contracts, to some degree, on this season’s lofty home run numbers? Yet homers fall precipitously across the board, starting next season. Do you think FO’s will take that into consideration and be leery of doling out large money/years?
It’s all relative.
I thought the ball was Juiced already in 2017?
I agree with Steve. $60 million
What first jumped out at me was “668 plate appearances.” I’m SO used to 600 PA being a benchmark… My natural curiosity had me look up the record for PA in a single season – the record is 778 by Jimmy Rollins in 2007. He had 758 the season before…
You’re all welcome for this bit of useless information! (laffing)
Fun Fact: The batting average leader has to have 502 plate appearances, but if he has less, you add the difference to his at bats to see if he would still lead the league in batting average.
Wow! There’s one I didn’t know! If that happens, is his average reported as the actual number he earned or the calculated average for 502 PA?
I think his average stays at what it is but he is awarded the batting title.
It would make more sense and be fairer if those “extra” at bats were counted as outstanding and if his recalculated batting average was still the highest then he is the batting champ. I believe it is called the Tony Gwinn rule.
Soler is #17 in the MLB in plate appearances in 2019, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s not an outrageous number that blew everyone else away this year.
and here’s one for you:
with soler hitting 45 home runs, royals become the last team to have someone hit 40 or more home runs in a season (which, considering they’ve not only been around since 1969, but that 6 teams have joined ever since, is kinda crazy when you think about it).
can’t even blame the ballpark for it, as the astrodome was an extreme pitchers park, bagwell did 40 twice (and 39 when the strike hit in 94, though he had just gotten hurt, so who knows if he would have hit 40 that season)
and it took 32 years to break the previous record for most homeruns in a season ….Mike Moustakas did that in 2017 (Which is why I’m glad the Royals didn’t trade him THAT summer)
I actually find it more amazing that the Dodgers have existed for well over 100 years, have had many storied players and teams, and never had a 50 HR hitter.
That would be awful. If arb has him at 9 mil per year for the next 2 years, you’re getting 1 extra year of control at 27 million for that one year. 5/65 is more like it.
I agree, but the market isn’t going to give bat-first guys 5 year deals anymore. Soler is a masher, but he’s quickly going to be a DH, Khris Davis’s deal plus a little more money makes sense.
Already is a DH
I was thinking 3/35-39 maybe 40. Depending of what he settles for.
Super wary of giving any extension out when KC has him under decent cost control for 2 more years and has already been said, he’s had a struggle filled career, except for 2019. His swing has potential bust type extension written all over it. Dangerous for a team with limited salary to spend as does KC
It’s about risk vs reward, but the risk is you pay him $14m/year for 2-3 would-be free agent years. Obviously not ideal but not going to destroy their ability to do anything else, especially with the new TV deal coming on after next year.
It’s environmentally friendly for the Royals to rely on Soler power.
That’s so awful I wish I had thunk of it…
I don’t see the Royals contending by 2021. In addition to conducting contract extension talks the front office might be wise to field trade offers for Jorge Soler this offseason and try to sell high on him as he opts into arbitration.
Talks might be limited to AL teams with Soler seemingly best suited for a DH role due to poor defensive metrics as a corner outfielder but at 6-4, 230lb and a bit of athleticism I don’t see why he couldn’t morph into a decent first baseman down the road.
flanny said in his inbox that the plan is to try to contend in 2021. Doesn’t mean they actually will make it to the playoffs but they want at least be more competitive. By then, the rotation could have Brady singer or Jackson Kowar in it.
Jorge Soler has developed a good relationship with some of the coaches (Especially Pedro Grifol), so trading him in the fast approaching off-season would probably be a bad idea. we don’t know how the next manager will use the DH…right now Soler has that role daily except when we had games in NL parks where he played RF, especially when we want his power.
I agree, their window is going to open around 2022 or ’23, which makes it all the more important they get a couple top prospects plus more ready-now young guys for Merrifield this offseason. Oakland matches up perfectly there, btw.
You might be right, but Dayton Moore believes we’ll compete in 2021 (which is why he’s drafted 8,000 college pitchers the last two years) and he’s the one calling the shots. Merrifield won’t be traded and Soler won’t be traded unless someone just absolutely blows Moore away. You can call it stupid and you might be right, but it is what it is.
Plus we don’t have any utility type guys ready for the MLB right now. none that play as many positions as whit anyway. I think they might be trying to make McConnell a utility man ( So you’re having him play the outfield in instructional league & He was drafted as a shortstop)
How not mention Khrushchev Davis as comp?
Khris.. classic autocorrect.
That was wonderful
I would wait one more season and try to sign him to an extension near the end of next season or during the off season if he repeats similar numbers and stays healthy. The offer should be 5 years at 14 mil per. The Royals would then lock one of the best pure power hitters in baseball for his entire prime years at a decent rate in today’s baseball economics.
If he hits 45 HR again then he may not even want an extension he might want to test DA.
The White Sox should trade for Soler. He fits perfectly with their roster.
Because he’s Cuban? They are locked in COF and Abreu will probably take a huge discount to become a full time DH. Plus there’s the whole dealing within the division thing.
He’s a RF with monster offense, something the Sox desperately need. And yeah, he’s Cuban. 🙂
ChiSoxCity if you were as knowledgeable as you claim you would understand Soler is not a RF’er. He is a DH. If you put him in right he will be on the DL all the time like he always was when he played RF
No doubt so you can say see Cubs he’s a star and you lost him. You care more about bashing a team that means nothing to the Sox in the “standings” than you do about other teams in their own division. You’re a horrible Sox fan and you always berate me like I’m a bad fan. I’m tired of your crap on every article not even pertaining to the Sox or Cubs and you bring it up. Keep your bashing to your local watering hole cause you don’t belong here. I’m done responding to your stupid comments.
Good for you Chicagofan1978!
TRADE HIM. His value is outstanding due to his low salary and the Royals are not quite ready to compete. But a good prospect haul would be a boon for KC.
Right because everyone in the league is paying premiums for defensively challenged power hitters with red flags *eye roll*
Then who would be the DH next year? I don’t want to be a different DH every day…that got annoying
IF KC believes Soler can perform like this in 2023 when the Royals look to be the kings of the AL Central, extend him. Otherwise deal him. And Merrifield. Soler is suspect on defense also. KC didn’t reach two WS and win once with bad outfield defenders.
Any player who hits nearly 50 HRs in a season far exceeds the value of a Heyward type player, even with the throwing or fielding errors.
See. This guy didn’t even mention the Cubs and your hard on for them appeared
ChiSoxCity Soler is as close to 40 homers as 50 but hey why let the facts get in the way of your BS.
Soler was not hitting 50 homers for the Cubs in 2016. Heck even the Royals demoted him to the minors then. Nice try.
4 years later Soler developed. Terrific. Cubs were in win now mode and could not wait.
And guess what win the Cubs did!! They won the World Series and man that just enrages you! It just burns you up.
The Royals suck, and Fangraphs has their farm system at #26. On what basis are we projecting them to even have a window, much less be “kings of the AL Central”?
I’d say it’s more like 21st because we do have Bobby Witt JR. who is the highest rated high school player in the draft this year.
No, but they did have K-Mo, and he’s a better version of K-Mo.
Everyone can talk about the juiced balls this season and that’s fine. But he’s hitting more than 95% of the players also swinging at those same juiced balls.
I am EXTREMELY annoyed with all of the juiced ball comments when it comes to Soler. If any of you actually watched his games/home runs, his home runs don’t just barely get over the wall. He is hitting them into the second deck ect…..averaging around 430ft per home run. Juiced or not, his shots would STILL BE HOME RUNS!!! END OF STORY!!!!! And he should get a 4 year, $54M contract with a 5th year team option for $16M.
Great breakout year, but can he make adjustments as pitchers begin to understand his weaknesses better. 4/$54 is a lot of money for Kansas City to spend on an unproven player.
Gotta extend him simply for his balaclava and parka under the jersey game.
Soler had a breakout year.. at age 27. For a rebuilding club like KC, they should be looking to cash in on Soler. Get whatever you want to fill another need on the team or stock up on prospects. IMO, I wouldn’t extend him.