Saturday, February 11, 2012

Will Soler become too expensive?

With the Marlins supposedly offering Yoenis Cespedes a contract (and rumor has it they've offered him $40 million for 6 years), it might be just a matter a days before he is off the market.

When that happens, attention will the move to the other Cuban outfielder that has caught the eye of many major league teams, Jorge Soler.

I've gone on record as saying that the Cubs should focus more on signing Soler than Cespedes, which is not a unique opinion.  Many other experts and bloggers feel the same way.  We are under the assumption that Soler will be significantly cheaper, but is that really going to be true with a kid that is going to be in the minor leagues for the next 3 or more years?

Soler is only 19 years old.  More than that, though. There is no solid scouting report on the kid.  He's tall and lanky from the photos we've seen of him.  He's got a long, loopy swing according to reports from the handful of people who have actually seen the kid play.  He's got a good arm and currently has above average speed.  Almost everyone has seen Cespedes hit and we know of his insane leg strength thanks to his promotional video but there is literally no video of Soler playing.

What we do know is that most scouts see Soler as having a high ceiling.  Some argue whether or not it is as high as Cespedes, but Soler's age gives a team the opportunity to find out without spending as much money.

Many teams, and Cespedes himself, believe that Cespedes is major league ready right now or at least very near it.  As a result, a team like the Marlins or the Nationals may be looking to make the big plunge and sign the kid for as much as $50 million and using him has a way of competing immediately in their division.  Soler does not give a team that potential right now.

So we then get to the point of this post.  Who is interested in Soler and what will they pay for him?  Obviously we all believe the Cubs are very interested.  The Red Sox have expressed an interest as have the Orioles, Nationals, White Sox and even the A's.

This kid is going to have a lot of suitors...perhaps more than Cespedes has had.  If Cespedes signs before Soler (which appears likely right now), the cost to sign this 19 year old might blow up significantly...perhaps north of $20 million.

The Cubs do have $20 million to spend, but would it be worth it?  Soler is probably going to spend the better part of the next 3 years in the minor leagues, if not longer.  The Red Sox, White Sox and Orioles are all teams that potentially are willing to spend big on talent that won't be available for that many years...the Red Sox because they are always looking toward the future and the other teams because they are in major rebuilding projects like the Cubs.  In fact, the White Sox might have the biggest reason to sign Soler since their farm system is currently ranked near or at the bottom by most experts right now.

So what should the Cubs do if the price of Solor does push past $20 million?  They are rumored to have already spent $7 to $8 million on Gerardo Concepcion, who didn't have nearly the buzz that Soler does.  A number of scouts have projected Concepcion out as only a #4 or #5 starter.  Both players are the same age and it might take them both just as long to get to the big leagues.

As I said before, the Cubs do have the money.  The 2012 payroll is going to be down significantly from last year.  I felt the rumored offer to Concepcion was a bit much, but if this is the direction the Cubs are willing to take, I say that $20+ million for Soler is worth the risk.  With Brett Jackson projected as the future center fielder, adding Soler as the 2014 or 2015 left or right fielder seems like a pretty good option.

Watch for more scouting reports on Soler to be posted over the next few weeks.  As I mentioned, there isn't much solid information about him compared to what we know about Cespedes.  When those reports come out, we can better judge if the escalating price for this kid is worth the risk.