Saturday, June 30, 2012
Cubs, Jorge Soler reach deal
By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Just two days before the deadline for international signings, the Chicago Cubs finally got the signature of Cuba's Jorge Soler on a nine-year, $30 million contract.
As of Monday, the maximum that can be given out for international signings is $2.9 million, per terms of the newest collective bargaining agreement. Soler's deal, which was agreed upon earlier this month, would have been null and void if it wasn't signed by Sunday.
Was there fear the process wouldn't be completed in time?
"Fear is probably too strong of a word, but I think we're glad to get it done," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "We only had a couple days to spare here. We're glad to get it finalized. I think his agents worked really hard on his residency. I don't think we even know all the details of what they went through to get him a work authorization, to get him residency. But they did a good job and got him signed in time."
Soler defected from Cuba in 2011, and per United States policy, he had to establish residency elsewhere before he could obtain a work visa. Soler and his agent were permitted to work on a deal earlier this month with the Cubs agreeing to terms with the player they had long set their eyes on.
ESPN.com's Keith Law projected Soler as a player that would have gone in the top five of the 2012 draft.
It wasn't until late Friday evening, though, that Soler was in the United States with the contract in front of him. He signed the document in Miami and is on his way to Mesa, Ariz., where he will begin his own version of spring training.
The 20-year-old power hitter will begin his time in the Cubs organization as an outfielder. The club has not decided when or where he will start playing in games, but he might kick things off at the Single-A level.
"It's a little bit of a unique circumstance with him as far as this season goes," Hoyer said. "When he gets in games, I'm not sure. But that's the plan, get him to Mesa and get him working out here and training."
Soler's place on the 40-man roster is secured, but there is no timetable for his arrival to the major leagues.
"Let's get him into games first, but he's 20 years old and we're really impressed with how he looks," Hoyer said. "One thing his agents did a very good job of, they put him in a lot of games down in the Dominican, just kind of showcase thing. They let him play in a lot of games and he performed, so we're hopeful that's a harbinger of good things, but it's hard to tell until he gets into games."
The Cubs listed Soler at 6 feet 3, 205 pounds, but he has been listed as high as 225 pounds elsewhere.
"I think you'll be really impressed when you see him physically: a huge, huge person, a very big man," Hoyer said. "Right now, he moves really well. We're going to start him out in right field. Could he end up moving at some point? He could because he is that big. But he has huge power and it's hard to find power in today's game and that's a big part of why we're willing to make that kind of commitment is that it is hard to find power. He's just a huge guy with bat speed and has always generated a lot of power."
Hoyer declined to compare him to anybody, but manager Dale Sveum said he resembles the body type of his former Brewers teammate Glenn Braggs, who hit 70 home runs in seven seasons.
"You can probably go on and on about the body type and everything like that," Sveum said. "You see his body and the size and the strength is that kind of strength at a young age is pretty impressive. Hopefully it all translates into a huge productive player at this level."
With Bryan LaHair and Anthony Rizzo now in the major leagues, Soler fits an organization need of a power-hitting prospect at the minor-league level.
"I know this wasn't the best-kept secret of all time but we're excited to sign Jorge Soler," Hoyer said. "We think he provides a ton of potential power for us. We scouted him heavily. It's obviously a significant commitment for us but we feel like he fits in very well with what we're trying to do. He's the right age, the right talent and we're excited to finally get him started here."