Theo Epstein made it pretty clear last Saturday. The Cubs would have to be blown away in order to trade Jorge Soler. The Cubs are believed to be listening when teams call about Soler, but it doesn’t appear the front office would deal the 23-year old slugger unless a starting pitcher was part of the return.
Ken Rosenthal reported the Cubs “seem disinclined to trade” Soler in order for Jason Heyward to play right field. Moving Soler would force the Cubs to acquire a centerfielder, according to Rosenthal, and right now they “prefer to keep their assets from Soler to Javier Baez to Carl Edwards Jr. rather than build the perfect roster.” The Cubs feel any areas can be addressed during the season, a point Theo Epstein also made. Plus, according to Rosenthal, not moving Soler and beginning the season with him in right and Heyward in center would give Albert Almora Jr. development time at the start of the year which could create an option for center field if Soler is eventually traded.
Jorge Soler showed what he is capable of during the playoffs and if not for Kyle Schwarber he would have been the story of the Cubs’ run in the post-season. Soler was 9-for-19 in seven games with three doubles, three home runs, six walks and five strikeouts (.474/.600/1.105/1.705). Soler produced at the plate in the NLDS and NLCS while struggling defensively.
“It wasn’t too hard to scout the post-season last year. I think it was nine or 10 games, or whatever it was, he was probably our best hitter through that stretch. He and [Kyle] Schwarber were the two most locked in guys that we had,” Epstein said. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
“I love this guy’s future. I think his bat could be as good as just about anyone’s in the game, and from a power standpoint especially. As soon as he learns to loft the ball just a little bit more, which I think he will, it’s something he’s working on,” Epstein said. “Then defensively we have challenged him to get a little bit leaner, a little bit more athletic, to work on his jumps in right field and that’s what he’s working on.”
“We will put our stock in his future certainly baring something completely unforeseen. He knows to ignore all of the trade rumors, just take it as a compliment.”
Soler finished the year with a .262/.324/.399 line and 18 doubles, a triple and 10 home runs for a .723 OPS. Soler was better over his final 44 games of the season. Soler hit six of his 10 homers and batted .265/.399/.415 with a .754 OPS.
“We like Soler’s presence in our lineup. If you look at it we can start to get a little vulnerable against left-handed pitching under certain scenarios,” Epstein said. “Putting his huge right-handed bat right in the middle of it makes a really big difference.”
As the roster is currently constructed Joe Maddon will have four lefties, three right handers and a switch hitter in what should be considered his everyday lineup.
“I think an outfield of Schwarber, [Jason] Heyward and Soler could be one of the best in baseball, especially with Soler really focused on coming back a little leaner, a little more athletic and really locked in defensively,” Epstein said. “With some defensive gains from Schwarber as well in left and we think Heyward is going to be a well above average centerfielder.”
According to multiple reports, most recently one from Bruce Levine, the “type of return the Cubs” would require to trade Jorge Soler is Danny Salazar (Indians), Carlos Carrasco (Indians) or Tyson Ross (Padres). The Braves suggested a deal for Soler “centered around” Ender Inciarte and the Rays “would consider moving starting pitchers and relievers in the right deal for young hitters.”
Adding Jason Heyward to the team did not handcuff the front office or diminish Soler’s value. The Cubs are not in a position in which a deal has to be made. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer can just sit back and wait for a team to make them an offer they can’t refuse.