Jorge Soler probably didn’t anticipate he’d still be unsigned in February when he declined a $13MM player option with the Marlins. The right-handed slugger is one of the better offensive players to hit the market in a weak free agent class. It’s likely his camp started out looking for a three or even four-year deal.
Whatever Soler’s asking price, it obviously hasn’t materialized to this point. Some of that is a reflection of a generally slow-moving hitting market, but he remains unsigned even as a few comparable players have now come off the board. The recent signings of Joc Pederson and Justin Turner, in particular, could have an adverse effect.
Pederson signed for $12.5MM with the Diamondbacks, while Turner inked a $13MM guarantee with the Blue Jays. Both players now seem set to work as those clubs’ respective primary designated hitters. Arizona and Toronto had each been linked to Soler earlier in the offseason, with the Jays and his camp reportedly maintaining contact as recently as last week. While the Jays could perhaps still make a Soler deal work by giving Turner regular run at third base, that’s a lot tougher than it seemed a few days ago.
There aren’t many other clear fits. Along with Toronto and Arizona, the Mariners, Red Sox and Marlins have been connected to Soler this offseason. Seattle instead reacquired Mitch Haniger and signed Mitch Garver to add right-handed power. Soler admitted a few weeks ago that Miami had shown essentially no interest in a reunion. While Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald subsequently wrote that the sides have had some contact, he suggested the Fish would only seriously consider Soler if his market cratered.
Boston theoretically remains in play. Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow said a couple weeks ago the team was still open to adding a right-handed hitter to the outfield mix. Soler could split time with Masataka Yoshida between left field and DH. As with Miami, this could require his asking price falling, however. Boston was reportedly reluctant to go beyond two years and something in the $28MM range for Teoscar Hernández. If they value Soler similarly, that’d be a disappointing outcome for the 2023 All-Star.
There are a few other teams that make some sense for a righty-hitting DH, even if they haven’t been prominently tied to Soler. The Mets don’t have a set option at designated hitter. Will Sammon of the Athletic wrote yesterday that the position isn’t a priority for New York, which seems likely to rely on younger hitters like Brett Baty and Mark Vientos. The Nationals have a clear opening but are still amidst a rebuild.
The Giants have prioritized becoming more athletic this offseason; signing a defensively-limited slugger like Soler would cut against that. The Angels have ample payroll space and could consider a primary DH after losing Shohei Ohtani. That doesn’t seem like a priority. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal recently wrote that the Halos were reluctant to tie up the position, instead preferring to leave open the possibility of rotating Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon as needed in a bid to keep them healthier.
The Cubs have Christopher Morel as a DH possibility. The Padres have a vacancy but are facing payroll constraints and have needs in the outfield and rotation. The Twins could use a right-handed hitter and potentially cleared an opening at DH with the Jorge Polanco trade (thereby freeing second base for Edouard Julien). Do they have enough financial breathing room to make a run?
Will the lack of clear fits deal a significant hit to Soler’s market? At the start of the offseason, MLBTR predicted him for a three-year, $45MM contract. On New Year’s Eve, 62% of respondents predicted Soler would secure a larger guarantee than would J.D. Martinez, who stands as perhaps his top remaining competitor for a DH job. How much should Soler expect to receive and which uniform will he be wearing on Opening Day?