How Soler addition solves several glaring Giants problems originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants weren’t just bad in the second half of the 2023 MLB season, they also were boring. For a disgruntled fan base, that was perhaps just as big a problem as the final record.
The front office spent the final days of September and the early weeks of the offseason trying to pick a new direction, and as the Giants dug into the numbers, it wasn’t hard to find one glaring deficiency that partly explained the record and also the lack of sizzle. Two years after leading the National League in home runs, they finished 19th, with the production absolutely falling off a cliff in the second half, when they hit just 68 in 72 games.
Lack of power doesn’t have to be a season-killer. Only two teams hit fewer homers than the Giants after the All-Star break, but one of them — the Arizona Diamondbacks — reached the World Series.
Life certainly is a lot easier when you have players who can tie a game with one swing, though, and on the eve of camp, the Giants are adding one who immediately becomes their most feared hitter. Jorge Soler reportedly is in agreement on a three-year deal that will pay him $42 million, filling a huge need for an organization that had just one 20-homer bat last season in Wilmer Flores.
Soler should soak up most of Flores’ plate appearances at designated hitter, allowing the Giants to roll with a Flores-LaMonte Wade Jr. platoon at first base. Because of his defensive limitations, it seems likely Soler sees almost all of his time at DH, but the Giants are built for that.
They handed a similar role to Joc Pederson last season but got only 15 homers from a streaky player who was supposed to be their best power threat. Across the country, Soler hit 36 for the Miami Marlins, making his first All-Star team.
That total would be the highest by a Giant since Barry Bonds hit 45 in 2004, but it wasn’t close to Soler’s career-high, when he led the American League with 48 homers in 2019, his best and healthiest MLB season.
It’s easy to play "Yeah, but what about the ballpark …" whenever a slugger signs with the Giants, but Soler should be as Oracle-proof as just about any MLB hitter.
Per Baseball Savant, Soler would have hit 32 homers last season even if he played half his games in San Francisco. He hit 16 “no-doubters,” ranking in a tie for 14th in the big leagues with the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Juan Soto and Yordan Alvarez. Soler was in the 94th percentile in expected slugging percentage and 83rd in walk rate, which should make him a great fit for a lineup that still wants to keep the line moving above all else.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons Soler wasn’t picking between nine-figure deals this winter. The defense is an issue and he doesn’t run well. When he led the AL in homers, he also led the way in strikeouts, and while he has become a bit more selective at the plate, he still swings and misses at a high rate. Soler will turn 32 this spring, so it’s possible the Giants are paying for someone who already has had his best seasons.
But they're paying that price for the promise of home runs, which they so desperately need from a lineup that still could use more help. If Soler is joined by a Matt Chapman or new shortstop, the Giants should be in position to hang around the Wild Card race until Robbie Ray and Alex Cobb return. Even if he’s not, they’re better than they were a day ago.
They needed power, and they got it.