The deal is not yet official, but reports indicate the Royals will get outfielder Jorge Soler in exchange for Wade Davis in a one-for-one deal.
Much has been written on these digital pages about Wade Davis (and since this piece is supposed to be a quick-esque reaction) I won't go much into him. He is a very good reliever, who had two injuries/scares last year, and comes with only one final year of control left at a not cheap rate. Many folks were thinking Davis should have returned an Aroldis Chapman-caliber deal but that just was not ever really on base with reality.
Coming to Kansas City is Jorge Soler, the soon-to-be 25 year old Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year contract worth $30 million with the Cubs. Soler got off on a really rocky start with the Cubs organization when he failed to report of camp as quickly as expected. Through the minors Soler had some ups and down performance wise but scouts were banking on his tremendous tools still. Soler made top 100 prospect lists for several years, peaking at #12 overall by Baseball America in 2015.
Since reaching the majors, Soler has been inconsistent, He has shown a propensity to strikeout and his defense has been rated poorly, He isn't a good baserunner either. The one tool that has been there more than other is his power. That tool though will certainly play down a bit at Kauffman Stadium, where fly balls go to die.
Defensively he has an above-average arm and it works for right field. The issue though is his fielding ability. Soler doesn't have very good speed and his new home may not be forgiving of that. Kauffman has the largest outfield in baseball and is much bigger than Wrigley Field. From a square footage size overall, Soler is going from the second smallest park in the majors to the second biggest one.
Soler has a somewhat extensive injury history, considering he is almost 25 years old. Across the past three seasons Jorge has missed time due to injuries all across his body, including his hamstring, ankle, calf, oblique, and toenail to boot. Soler is a big, muscular guy and the Cubs focused heavily on getting him more flexible to ward off injuries.
I am not one who really cares about a players makeup much but Soler might be worth mentioning since the Royals tout clubhouse chemistry. As mentioned earlier, Soler was reportedly late to report to camp after signing his deal, causing frustration with some folks in the Cubs front office. Then next year Soler was suspended five games after he charged the opposing teams dugout with a baseball bat.
As mentioned previously Soler hasn't quite lived up to his tools yet over the span of 765 plate appearances in the majors.
As you can see he has brought his plus power into games, and it should continue to play in the form of doubles for the Royals but home runs may never come for him to the extent of his ability. There is a decent walk rate but next to it comes a well above average strikeout rate. That strikeout-rate means his power must absolutely play as he won't really hit for average or get on base at a great rate. When you couple that with his poor fielding and not great base running, you get a below-average player.
One of the big points of contention the Royals will certainly cover over the next week or so is that they were attracted to the team control that Soler has, but I think that's deceiving. Here are his current terms:
So he's owed $15M over the next four years. That's a pretty cheap rate for almost any major leaguer. However I want to mention two things. One, I think when you are bragging about team control, at least one or two of those years should come at the league minimum or so. If not, then it should be a really good player if you are going to crow about it. Christian Colon has tons of team control, more than Soler, but any team acquiring him isn't going to make it their #1 sticking point.
Secondly, and most importantly, Soler has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt into arbitration. If he stays on course and plays most of this year, Soler will be arb eligible going into next winter. That means the $4M is probably going to go up likely if not in 2018 then certainly in 2019 and 2020. Current research shows that players are getting 40/60/80% of their free agency value in year 1/2/3 of arbitration, and if Soler were a free agent right now he'd certainly get more than 3/$12M.
This also means that the Royals take on all the risk too. If Soler is as good as the Royals hope, he'll opt into arbitration and the Royals will have to pay him more. If he doesn't pan out or his injuries derail his career permanently, they are still on the hook for whatever his contract guarantees him, until he opts into arbitration - in which it would seem like they don't owe him anything that the agreed upon arbitration amount. So in the best case for the Royals, they are going to owe him a lot more than $15M over the next four years.
Comparables and Projections
The Cubs outfield is of course crowded (part of the reason why they are trading away Soler) so FanGraphs projection system only pencils Soler in for 60 games.
Using full season projections (Steamer 600), Soler looks like this:
Soler just doesn't project to be anything better than a slightly above replacement level player, far from an average one.
As far as players that are similar to Soler, one name I personally can't stop thinking of is the disappointment known as Avisail Garcia:
No doubt that Soler has been better than Garcia (partially because Garcia has just been so awful) but the profile is just similar somewhat: low-average, low-OBP, good raw power, poor defender, and a package of tools you'll always be waiting on to actually turn into results.
As far as similar overall profiles go, here are a few players since 2000 that are statistically close to Soler based on BB%, K%, SLG%, and defense (min. 700 PA - does not consider age).
Ruggiano was never much of a prospect, Ankiel was a bad pitcher who converted to outfielder, Saunders disappointed for years in Seattle after being a top 30 prospect until becoming an average or so player.
Baseball Reference similarity scores aren't impressive either for him:
In the end, the Royals got a not good package (in my opinion - based on everything we know right now) in return for a decent asset. They were never going to get a Chapman package, but I find it hard to believe that no other team was willing to beat the Cubs offer...especially in a time when relievers are going for potentially $80-90M. Feel free though in three years time to laugh in my face, using this article as evidence.
You know what younger, Cuban outfielder with a laser arm, power, and make up issues I would rather have had...Yasiel Puig. The same Yasiel Puig that the Dodgers waived this past August and demoted. Think the Dodgers would have balked at Puig for Davis?