Earlier this week, the Chicago Cubs agreed to a contract with free agent outfielder Jorge Soler. The contract will pay Soler $30 million over nine years. The 20-year-old Cuban defector will have the option to forgo the contract terms and opt to participate in MLB's arbitration process once he reaches the major leagues.
If Soler is as good as advertised, he could make much more than $30 million over the next nine years.
The deal is a huge win for the Cubs. Chicago's new front office, led by former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, is attempting to rebuild the Cubs from an overpriced, aging disappointment to a young, exciting contender. Soler's signing is a major step in the right direction.
The Cubs are not hindered by the budgetary constraints of a small market club. Chicago eschewed high-priced free agents last offseason and cleared millions off the payroll with the departures of Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, and Carlos Zambrano. Baseball is also establishing limits on the amount each team can spend to acquire international free agents. Quite simply, the Cubs had a big bag of money to burn and Soler was the best international free agent on the market.
Soler has drawn rave reviews from talent evaluators and has been likened to a top-five pick in baseball's amateur draft. The addition of Soler, coupled with last week's drafting of Florida high school outfielder Albert Almora, gives the Cubs a much-needed infusion of young talent. Couple Soler and Almora with Triple-A Iowa standouts Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, and 2011 first-rounder Javier Baez, and Chicago suddenly has five top flight offensive prospects. Rizzo and Jackson figure to land in Wrigley at some point this summer. Baez, a 19-year-old shortstop playing at Single-A Peoria, got a late start this season but is making up for lost time. The youngster already has three home runs and seven stolen bases in his first 15 games with the Chiefs.
Soler joins fellow Cuban defector Gerardo Concepcion in the Cubs organization. Chicago signed Concepcion to a five-year $6 million contract in the spring. Concepcion, a 20-year-old lefty, is currently struggling with Peoria.
The huge contracts given to Soler and Concepcion and the aggressiveness shown in pursuing international free agents are positive signs for the future of the Cubs.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com
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