Jorge Soler Brings His Giant Bat to San Francisco

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Jorge Soler is getting nearly as far away from Miami as he possibly can. The 6’4” power hitter has agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Susan Slusser broke the news of the deal, and Mike Rodriguez reported the terms.

Soler, who debuted with the Cubs in 2014 and also played for the Royals, Braves, and Marlins, opted out of the third and final year of the deal he signed with Miami, capitalizing on the second-best season of his 11-year career both in terms of health and overall production. Soler ranked 19th on our Top 50 Free Agents list, and his deal is just $1 million per year below the three years and $45 million that both Ben Clemens and MLB Trade Rumors predicted for him. The deal also nets Soler $1 million more than this year than the $13 million he would have made had he stayed with the Marlins.

There’s plenty of risk here. Soler was an All-Star in 2023, the World Series MVP in 2021, and the American League home run champ in 2019. He obliterates four-seam fastballs, and he’s the kind of player who can go on a tear and put a team on his back. He’s also about to turn 32, and he missed half the 2022 season due to back and pelvis injuries. The 1.9 WAR he put up in 2023 was not only the second-best mark of his career, but just the second time he even surpassed 0.7, the total he recorded as a 22-year-old rookie in 2014. Soler has appeared in 100 games only four times in his 11 years in the big leagues. It’s encouraging that three of those four seasons came over the past five years, but players (and humans in general) don’t usually see their health improve as they transition into their mid-30s.

Moreover, Soler doesn’t contribute on the bases or with the glove, and he’s best suited for a DH role. Soler spent just 42 games in the outfield in 2023. That might not sound like much to you, but the defensive metrics agreed that it was way, way too much. Over the course of Soler’s 11 seasons, the four major defensive metrics — DRS, DRP, OAA, and UZR — have been unanimous in their contempt for his glove. Combined, those four systems have evaluated Soler’s defense 42 times (11 seasons tracked by DRS, DRP, and UZR, plus nine by OAA). Of those 42 ratings, 38 were negative, three gave Soler a rating of exactly 0, and just one was positive — when DRP credited Soler with 0.8 runs prevented in 2019.

Despite Soler’s dreadful defense, San Francisco will use him at times in the outfield, likely as a way to spell Michael Conforto and Mike Yastrzemski against left-handed pitching. Under former manager Gabe Kapler, the Giants mixed and matched out of necessity, but also by design; even with a new skipper, Bob Melvin, that trend is likely to continue to some degree considering the personnel on their roster. Over the past three seasons, San Francisco has had just six players qualify for the batting title and eight total qualified player-seasons. (Yastrzemski and Thairo Estrada each have qualified twice in the last three years.) Only three teams have had fewer qualified seasons, and half of the major league clubs have had at least 12 in that span. But no matter how frequently Melvin makes him wear a glove, Soler will slot into the lineup nicely by providing real production from the right side of the plate, something the team sorely lacked last year.

For now, though, let’s set our reservations aside for a minute and admire the stylistic fit. It’s hard to think of a team that needs power more than the San Francisco Giants, and it’s hard to look at Jorge Soler and think of anything other than power. If you peruse other articles about this signing, you’ll come across multiple variations of the word slug. Depending on your outlet of choice, the Giants have variously signed up for three years of “slugger Jorge Soler,” “veteran slugger Jorge Soler,” “Free-Agent Slugger Jorge Soler,” “former Miami Marlins slugger Jorge Soler,” “slugging outfielder Jorge Soler,” and even “slugger and former World Series MVP.” All of these descriptions are apt. He’s not up there to hit Soler flares. Soler slugs.

The Giants could use some of that. Famously, no Giant has had a 30-homer season since a 39-year-old Barry Bonds hit 45 in 2004 (unless you’re counting Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner, who allowed 30 homers in 2017 and 2019, respectively). In fact, over that same time frame, Soler has the same number of seasons with 27 or more home runs as the Giants do: three. The difference is that only four times has Soler been healthy enough to accrue 400 plate appearances in a season, whereas the Giants have had 109 different player-seasons reach that threshold over the past 24 years.

In 2023, the Giants ranked 19th in home runs, 23rd in ISO and exit velocity, and 27th in slugging. Some of that has to do with Oracle Park, which, according to Statcast’s park factors, ranks as the 27th-worst park for home runs for both left-handed and right-handed batters. But that’s why you go get someone as powerful as Soler (or, for that matter, Arson Judge), who hits moonshots that would be no-doubters anywhere. According to Statcast, if he’d played all of his games in San Francisco last year, Oracle Park would have cost Soler just four of his 36 home runs. Moreover, after spending two years at loanDepot park — one of the three stadiums that make it even harder for righties to leave the yard than Oracle — there’s little chance that he’ll be intimidated and a much better chance that he’ll be the first player to launch a ball into that giant baseball mitt above the left field bleachers. Or maybe Soler, who has hit six opposite-field home runs with an estimated distance of at least 400 feet, will become the first right-handed player to send a ball into McCovey Cove.

Still, Soler alone is not going to solve San Francisco’s problems on offense. According to ZiPS, Soler’s projected SLG of .441 ranks 101st in the majors, and the second Giant doesn’t come until Wilmer Flores checks in at 170th, with a mark of .423. The lack of slug is a problem, of course, but it isn’t as much of an issue as the team’s overall lack of offensive production, and Soler can’t fix that on his own, either.

ZiPS projects newcomer Jung Hoo Lee as San Francisco’s best hitter, with a 112 wRC+, one spot above LaMonte Wade Jr. That ranks them 84th and 85th overall, and they’re the team’s only players in the top 120. The only teams with less representation in the top 120 are the A’s and the Rockies. ZiPS projects a 106 wRC+ for Soler, which is understandable when you consider that before last year, when he posted a 126 wRC+, he had not recorded a single-season mark above 107 since 2019, when his wRC+ was 136. Even if Soler exceeds his projections, San Francisco’s lineup could still use some help, and there aren’t that many bats left out there.

Davy Andrews is a Brooklyn-based musician and a contributing writer for FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @davyandrewsdavy.

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3 months ago

never forget arson judge

Original Greaser Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  tyke

Straight fire