Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jorge Soler, Anybody?

I'm admittedly very late to the Jorge Soler discussion party.  I haven't followed him as closely as others have, mainly because my focus has been on the rotation upgrades, roster filling, and the ongoing A.J. trade saga this offseason.  But with Yoenis Cespedes coming off the market earlier this week, Soler now becomes the premiere Cuban/international free agent available.  The Cubs are the reported front runner for Soler right now, but Buster Olney reported yesterday that the Yankees have "serious interest" in Soler and it's easy to see why.

As a prospect, there's a lot to like about Soler.  He's got great size (copyright Jay Bilas) at 6'3"/205, and has a couple of very attractive tools, notably his power and bat speed.  Soler projects as a big-time power hitter, favorably compared to Gary Sanchez in that department by my TYA colleague Eric Schultz yesterday, and also possesses enough athleticism and defensive skills to become a good corner outfielder.  His swing mechanics need some work, but what 19-year-old's don't to some degree?  As a 19-year-old, Soler potentially has a higher ceiling than the 26-year-old Cespedes, and if signed he could follow a much more traditional path to the Majors, likely starting this season in High-A ball.  The Yankees are noticeably short on legit corner OF prospects right now, and Soler would be one of, if not the best one available if he were going to be in this year's draft.

The problem for the Yankees in this seemingly right-fit situation is the money it will take to sign Soler.  The rumors going around yesterday, which have now been squashed, was that the Cubs had agreed to terms with Soler on a deal worth more than $27 million.  With the Yankees shying away from the Cespedes contract demands, I can't imagine they would be willing to invest a comparable amount to someone who is still at least 2-3 years away from helping them at the Major League level.  Soler is  a top-tier prospect, would fill a position of organizational need, and could potentially give them a long-term replacement for Nick Swisher in right field if the Yankees decide to let him go (albeit a replacement that would need a short-term placeholder while he moves through the MiL system).  The question is, would the Yankees be willing to cough up that much money to get him if that's what it takes?

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