The Braves and Padres are “in talks” with free agent outfielder Jorge Soler, reports David O’Brien of The Athletic. These teams join the Rockies and Marlins as clubs who have had reported interest in Soler the past few days.
Atlanta doesn’t have a glaring need in its outfield after re-signing postseason hero and left fielder Eddie Rosario to a two-year contract yesterday. The birth of the universal DH however gives the team some wiggle room to reunite with another face from last year’s miraculous World Series run. Currently, non-roster invitee Alex Dickerson projects to be the team’s starting DH (per Jason Martinez of RosterResource), which shouldn’t prove too much of a roadblock for an earnest pursuit of Soler.
Complicating matters though may be the presence of recovering slugger Ronald Acuña Jr.. Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulus told Jim Bowden of The Athletic today that the plan was for Acuña to work primarily as the team’s DH until garnering some outfield reps in late May. Given that the Braves outfield is currently full with Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, and Marcell Ozuna, an Acuña-occupied DH spot may prevent talks with Soler from getting too far.
The Padres on the other hand have plenty of room for Soler on their roster. While their primary vacancy in the outfield is in left field, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to slide incumbent right fielder Wil Myers over to left and allow Soler to play in right field. More likely, however, is a plan in which Soler is plugged into the team’s DH position. In that event, non-roster invitee Nomar Mazara or the versatile Jurickson Profar could be in line for work in left field, barring further additions.
After failed pursuits of Freddie Freeman, Nelson Cruz, Seiya Suzuki, and the recent injury to Fernando Tatis Jr. the Padres are running out of ways to improve upon last year’s middling offense. With a luxury tax number near $219MM (per Roster Resource), San Diego may be hesitant to fork over a contract necessary to sign Soler however. Crossing the new luxury tax threshold of $230MM would incur additional penalties for a Padres team that crossed the threshold last season. MLB Trade Rumors pegged Soler for a three-year $36MM deal at the start of the offseason, a contract that would nudge the Padres right into penalty territory.
Turning to Soler, the right-handed hitter posted a middling .223/.316/.432 (97 OPS+) in 149 games between the Royals and Braves last season. Of course, the 30-year-old’s season turned around following his midseason trade to Atlanta, reminding many of his 48-homer campaign in 2019. In 242 plate appearances as a Brave, Soler posted a much sturdier .269/.358/.524 (128 OPS+), cranking that production up to .242/.342/.606 in 11 postseason games.
Soler’s superlatives largely begin and end with his bat, as his right field work continued to draw poor marks last season. Despite that, the dawn of league-wide designated hitting figures to land the reigning World Series MVP a solid contract from one of his suitors in the coming weeks.