Allow me to introduce you to the 2015 Cubs’ starting right fielder, Jorge Soler.  The recent Cuban defector has agreed to a 9-year contract for a reported $30M (more on the contract later), and brings all kinds of prospective potential to the Cubs growing farm system.

But before I get into the specifics of Soler’s game, or the reason the Cubs went big on the relatively untested 20 year-old, I’ve got an itch that needs to be scratched…

Here are just some of the potential headlines my inner hack writer almost forced on you this morning.  Apologies in advance.

  • Cubs Invest In Soler Power
  • Cubs Go Farming With Soler Power
  • Soler Adds Power To The Cubs’ Farm System
  • Theo Orders Out For Cuban
  • Theo And Jed Hope Cuban Youngster Ignites Revolución For Cubs
  • Cubs And Soler Embargo On A Future Together
  • Theo Has Some ‘Splaining To Do

Chances are you’ve already seen some similar horrible headline puns in the course of your morning reading.  If not, you’re welcome.

So who is Jorge Soler (pronounced like “sole heir”)?  Most Cubs fans know him as the elusive third prospect who defected from Cuba along with Yoenis Cespedes and Gerardo Concepcion.  Cespedes, a 26 year-old slugging outfielder, signed with the A’s in the offseason and has shown brief flashes of periodic brilliance throughout the season.  Concepcion is a pitcher who signed with the Cubs in March, and is currently struggling with their single A farm team.  While the other two were quick to sign their deals, Soler’s immigration status held up his free agency.  The Cubs have always been thought to be frontrunners in the Soler sweepstakes–rumors that they had a handshake agreement in place have repeatedly bounced around while Soler waited for the go ahead from the MLB.  Reports today said the Red Sox, Yankees, Philles, Dodgers, and others were also in the running for the young outfielder.

Soler’s a big kid–he’s 6′ 3”, 225 lbs., and at 20, probably not done growing.  Depending on which draft guru you subscribe to, he’s a 4- or 5-tool player, with speed and a big arm that looks ticketed for Wrigley’s right field corner.

No less than HRH Keith Law said definitively that Soler would be a top five pick in the recent draft–top ten at worst.  (Law’s article on Soler is subscription only, but you can hear his thoughts from earlier today starting at the 25 minute mark of this podcast.)  He also said that when Soler signs his deal, he instantly becomes the second best prospect in the Cubs’ farm system.

However, Law also pointed out that it’s been roughly two years since Soler played competitive baseball–everything since then has been workouts and practices.  It’s also not clear just what level of pitching he’s faced–Law wondered if he’s ever seen a legitimate breaking ball before.  As such, expect the Cubs to give Soler plenty of time to develop and get up to speed in the low levels of their system.  Signing him for the next 9 years isn’t an impulse buy–it’s an investment.

Whether or not it’s a good investment may take several years to determine.

My big question about Soler is how exactly do you gauge the talent of a guy who hasn’t played against serious competition since the World Juniors two years ago?  And why would the Cubs give such a long contract–the longest in team history–to such an unknown quantity?

The intricate vagaries of baseball scouting elude me, and I cannot explain why the MLB is sold on the untested Soler–just that they are.  It’s probably safe to say the Cubs have more questions than answers with Soler at this point.  But they’re comfortable with the answers they do have.  And if Theo and Jed had balked at the price tag, there was a line of teams behind the Cubs who were eager to give the Cuban wunderkind a similar deal.

What’s clear right now is that this was the Cubs’ last best opportunity to land a highly-touted foreign free agent.  Just as the rules for spending in the draft changed this year, teams will have their international spending limited to no more than $2.9M after July 2 (it’s part of Montgomery Burns’ Bud Selig’s plan to legislate financial parity and institute an international draft).

The Cubs have until then to complete their deal with Soler–a deal he will most likely be able to opt out of in favor of arbitration, and similar to the deal Cespedes signed with the A’s.  That means Soler could make far more than the reported $30M it took pick him up.

With increasingly limited means to beef up their farm system, Theo and Jed are hoping he outplays the deal.

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