After not having been able to catch a Cubs game for about two weeks, I was able to watch the first and last games of their series with Boston. But before this past weekend’s series with the “Sawks,” I heard news of the Cubs signing Cuban defector, Jorge Soler.
This caused me to ask myself: “Who exactly is Jorge Soler, and what does this mean for the Cubs' future?”
When beginning to research Jorge Soler his contract was most notable. But after recovering from the “sticker shock” of 9-year/$30 million contract I had two epiphanies: One, the new management is willing to do what it takes to bring in good players—evidenced by the rumor from BaseballAmerica.com of the Cubs having a deal with Soler secured before being him declared a free agent from the MLB and allowed to sign in the States by the U.S. government. And two, rebuilding may take longer than first thought.
Jorge Soler is a physical specimen at 20 years old, 6’3", and 225 pounds, and he has good power and the potential to be a future five-tool player according to a staff report from SportingNews.com. But by all accounts Soler is not ML ready and will need time to develop in the minors before being called up to the majors. The caveat is the unknown amount of time he will need in the minors.
It is this amount of time to be spent in the minors that is the key variable regarding whether his contract was a wise deal or an over-hyping of another young talent.
If he develops as quickly as the organization hopes he will, and is called up rather expediently, Soler’s deal will give validity to such a large contract given to an unproven commodity (regardless if he decides to raise his salary during his arbitration-eligible years).
However, if he takes longer to become ML ready and spends more time in the minors than they had anticipated, or he does not develop into the player they expected, then the Cubs would have to pay the guaranteed $30 million of his contract despite his placement with the organization at that time.
Yet, his contract is not as troubling as some baseball observers may believe.
Commentators on MLB Network and Baseball Tonight have tried to compare his contract to that of Alfonso Soriano’s. “Didn’t the Cubs learn anything from the Soriano contract?" Or, “Why would Theo Epstein want the Cubs to become marred in another lengthy contract like they are now with Soriano?”
Yes, the contract lengths are similar. However, in their totalities the contracts are as comparable as the heights of Yao Ming and Verne Troyer. Nevertheless, there still is an underlying risk giving such a big contract to an enigmatic prospect.
But where does this risk lie? The biggest risks lie more in his past rather than in his athletic talents. As with all Cuban defector-athletes, coming from a dictatorial state to the second largest democracy in the world could pose some problems for such a young man.
The likelihood of culture shock posing a challenge to a smooth transition is not only possible but more likely probable, depending on the severity. And the fact he is a young man in a new country with a boat-load of money could be an additional distraction.
Nevertheless, Jorge will be successful adapting to his new surroundings as many of his ilk are, and will project those successes onto the field.
With that being said, an earlier question must be revisited: “What does this signify for the Cubs?”
It shows Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are sticking to their plan: Build from the ground up. They are loading up the farm system with talent like Rizzo, Jackson, Almora, Soler, and whomever they receive for their veteran players at this year’s trade deadline to build for the future.
They are looking for successful longevity. It is for that reason why the contract given to Soler is neither outrageous nor too awfully risky, but just another step in their comprehensive scheme to return the Cubs to a respectable franchise.
Not to be redundant, but the signing of Jorge Soler to such a long contract indicates the rebuilding of the Cubs' organization may take longer than anybody may have thought. Which is alright, as long as it doesn’t take too long.