Slugger Jorge Soler opted out of the final season of his three-year, $36MM contract with the Marlins following the 2023 season, and while there’s been plenty of speculation about a potential reunion, Soler himself told reporters Tuesday that his former club hasn’t shown interest in re-signing him. “There has been no contact with the Marlins,” Soler told Yordano Carmona of Pelota Cubana and others at a training event hosted by the Cuban Professional Baseball Federation.
Early in the offseason, the Marlins were reported to have some level of interest in retaining Soler, but whatever interest they did or did not have apparently hasn’t resulted in talks between the two parties. The Mariners, Diamondbacks, Red Sox and Blue Jays have all been tied to Soler, to varying extents, over the past month. (Notably, the Mariners have signed Mitch Garver to a two-year contract and reacquired Mitch Haniger since first being linked to Soler, which could take them out of the running.) Whether any has made a formal offer isn’t clear, but with fellow righty-swinging slugger Teoscar Hernandez now off the board to the Dodgers, it’s possible Soler’s market could accelerate.
Soler, 32 in February, bashed 36 home runs and hit .250/.341/.512 in 580 trips to the plate with the Fish this past season. He did so while registering a 24.3% strikeout rate and 11.4% walk rate that both represent the second-best marks of his career. He posted an above-average .242/.326/.462 slash against right-handed opponents (110 wRC+) and absolutely demolished lefties with a .277/.393/.688 batting line that landed 81% better than league-average (181 wRC+).
Beyond the raw offensive output, Soler continued to post his annual brand of tantalizing batted-ball metrics; he averaged 91.3 mph off the bat and saw 48% of his batted balls top 95 mph. Both of those marks placed Soler in the top 20% of big league hitters, and he ranked in the top nine percent of MLB hitters with a 15% barrel rate.
Thunderous contact has long been a part of Soler’s game, but so have prodigious strikeout totals and questionable defense. His recent contact improvements have perhaps assuaged some concerns about the strikeouts. Soler recorded career-best contact rates on pitches in the strike zone (85.4%) and off the plate (60.1%) in 2023, leading to a career-high 75% overall contact rate. It’s still below the league average, but no longer egregiously so. And, for a player with this type of light-tower power, teams will typically live with some holes in the swing.
However, there’s no getting around the defensive concerns. Soler is best deployed as a primary designated hitter at this point. His once plus sprint speed has fallen to 26.6 feet per second (26th percentile of MLB hitters), and his arm strength clocks into just the 57th percentile. Miami trotted him out for just 241 innings of defense in right field last season, and most public metrics were quite down on his performance there (-5 Defensive Runs Saved, -3.1 Ultimate Zone Rating, -3 Outs Above Average).
A new club could still play Soler in the outfield on occasion — particularly with strikeout-heavy and/or grounder-heavy starters on the mound — and trust that he’ll at least make routine plays, but it seems doubtful any team would view him as an everyday corner outfield option. That said, there are very few power bats available on the open market this offseason, making Soler’s 36-homer platform year all the more appealing.
Soler has had roller-coaster of a career at the plate to some extent, but by measure of wRC+ he’s had just one below-average year overall dating back to 2018. In total, he’s slashed .243/.334/.486 over his past 2598 trips to the plate — numbers that don’t include his .242/.342/.606 postseason showing with the ’21 Braves, when he was named World Series MVP after belting three homers and plating six runs in the Fall Classic. He’s also considerably younger than fellow free agent DH candidates like J.D. Martinez (36) and Justin Turner (39), which could add to his appeal among teams seeking some right-handed thump.
Soler’s original three-year contract with the Marlins was signed when now-former general manager Kim Ng was running the team’s baseball operations. Ng declined her end of a mutual option at the beginning of the offseason, and the Marlins hired Rays general manager Peter Bendix as their new president of baseball operations.