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Cubs Tue Jun 12 2012

Hip Hip, Jorge! Cubs Sign Soler

Cubs_200.pngAfter months of speculation where the questions seemed more focused on when Cuban defector Jorge Soler would sign rather than with whom, the Cubs landed the 20-year-old for $30 million over nine years.

The dollar amount might seem crazy when noting that many scouts (I'd link a couple articles - but they're behind paywalls) said Soler would probably be a top five pick in last week's MLB Draft. If he would've been eligible (only residents of the U.S., Canada, or a U.S. territory qualify), the offer he'd receive would be somewhere in the vicinity of 20 percent of that $30 million.

Why so much then? The answer is simple - a free market. Players taken in the MLB Draft have very little negotiating leverage because they can only talk with the team that drafts them. A high school player can threaten to go to college (I'm looking at you Albert Almora), but that forces him to wait three years for a payday that may not exist if there's an injury or lack of production (Almora will sign, don't worry). College juniors can threaten to return for their senior seasons, but they also risk losing money, and have even less negotiating power after graduation.

With Soler - every team in baseball had an equal shot at him. The negotiating was easy at that point. The highest bidder would earn his services.

With the international signing rules changing on July 2 to drastically reduce the amount teams can spend (meaning this contract is the last of its kind), Theo Epstein and the Cubs were long considered the front-runner to sign Soler while his residency paperwork was being finalized. The team was flush with cash they saved by avoiding big names in last winter's free agent pool - and wanted nothing more than to use the money to infuse their system with much-needed impact talent.

With Soler being the last player a team could open the wallet for, $30 million was no surprise. The nine-year contract also seemed like a great deal for the Cubs. Soler will probably need about three years of work in the minors before being ready for Chicago, so the contract would effectively buy out all of his potentially high dollar arbitration years.

Unfortunately, a few hours after the Cubs were anointed the winners, details were released that stated Soler could opt-out of the contract at any time to go through the normal arbitration process. The news effectively sets the $30 million as the lowest amount Soler could make over the nine years, with the potential of making $40-50 million if he's an instant star. A scenario the Cubs would gladly dish out the money for if it comes to fruition.

Soler profiles as a centerfielder in the majors, but could easily play right field if his body fills out more. He's got a cannon for an arm, and shouldn't have any problem hitting for average, defending, or stealing bases. The big question for Soler is whether he can produce the power the Cubs hope he can. If he does, he's a perennial All-Star.

He'll more than likely start in extended spring training down in Mesa to get acclimated to the United States and the organization, and will move to low-A Peoria sometime later this year or the beginning of next. The last thing fans should expect out of him is a quick ascension to Wrigley Field. The Cubs are far from contention, and as they've shown with other prospects this year, are in no rush to pressure them into the saviors of the franchise.

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