Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports an interesting rumor for this rainy Monday morning:
I’m hearing the Giants are in talks with Jorge Soler - he makes a lot of sense for them given their lack of power. Given the remaining free agents, this is one I think they need to get done to have more pop in the middle of the lineup.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 5, 2024
Now, could the San Francisco Giants use a DH of Jorge Soler’s caliber? Absolutely. In 137 games last season, the slugger hit .250/.341/.512 (.853 OPS) with 36 home runs. His first half work (.254/.350/.527 - 23 HR) made him an All-Star. Will that season line get him paid?
The Marlins paid him $15 million last season and he was basically a 2-win player (1.9 fWAR) with that thunderous bat — seriously, here’s a highlight reel:
Style on top of power! That would be a fun combination to see in a Giants uniform. It’d be an interesting pivot after the front office’s reportedly late and small offer to ostensible DH Rhys Hoskins, and it’s plausible that Hoskins’ 1 plus 1 deal with the Brewers could be a template for Soler.
But just to get a little bit better idea of what a deal might look like: the Dodgers paid 35-year old J.D. Martinez $9 million for a .271/.321/.572 line and 2.2 fWAR, which is a bargain no matter how you look at it. But age is absolutely a consideration in the 35+ tier of free agents, and while they do get paid for track record, it’s not as much as they would the closer to 30 they are. Soler will play his age-32 season in 2024, so cost-wise it could easily fall into that $15-$18 million range.
Would the Giants want to basically spend that much for an obvious DH when they already have Michael Conforto, Wilmer Flores, and LaMonte Wade Jr., three players whose value would be maximized by playing in the field as little as possible? Well, if there’s interest, it suggests that perhaps the Giants aren’t done moving some of their roster. If they were able to move the seemingly immovable Ross Stripling, then perhaps Michael Conforto’s roster spot is not so guaranteed.
The Giants absolutely need Soler’s power. There’s always a chance of decline, of course, particularly for a player entering his age-32 season, but as Ben Kaspick notes:
It's true. Miami's home ballpark has the third-worst park factor for home runs by right-handed hitters (20% tougher than the average stadium).— Ben Kaspick (@BenKaspick) February 5, 2024
Oracle Park is fourth-worst (17% tougher than average).
This is per Baseball Savant/Statcast and based on rolling three-year averages. https://t.co/kkqP5sq2YR
I’m always a fan of grabbing players setup for a statistical decline and putting them in a situation where their decline might be cushioned by an improvement in the surrounding conditions. Getting to hit in Oracle Park — more favorable to righties over lefties in general but certainly better over than hitting in Miami — and having games in Colorado but also against the Padres and Dodgers who have thin staffs... that dropoff might not be stark.
Soler’s career year was in 2019 when he hit 48 home runs and posted a 137 OPS+ in 679 PA (162 games) for Kansas City, but then he played for three teams across 2020, 2021, and 2022 (Kansas City, Atlanta, and Miami) and hit 48 home runs total with a 99 OPS+ across 1,082 PA. Back injuries limited him to just 72 games in 2022. So that’s why I keep looking at the red flags of age. He’s a 30-home run guy who has hit 30+ home runs just twice in his 10-year career. These red flags aren’t enough to put him in the Haniger-Conforto zone, of course; it just goes to show that at this point in free agency, there are limited options.
If you want to improve the power in the lineup, Soler would be a tremendous addition. Cuban players on the Giants feels like a rarity, too, and if it helps broaden their international appeal in terms of recruiting prospects — like, say, switch-hitter Yandro Hernández — so much the better. This is an unequivocally good and interesting rumor.