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Giants To Sign Jorge Soler

6:58AM: Soler’s contract with San Francisco guarantees the slugger $42MM, according to Mike Rodriguez (X Link). The deal is a nearly exact match with MLBTR’s prediction of a three-year, $45MM pact for Soler back in November as part of our annual Top 50 MLB free agents list.

1:02AM: The Giants have agreed to a three-year deal with free agent designated hitter/outfielder Jorge Soler, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The agreement is pending a physical. Soler is a client of the MVP Sports Group.

Talks between Soler and the Giants have been going on for at least the past week. As of this morning, the Giants were still reported to be in the mix but had balked at Soler’s request for a third guaranteed season. That, it seems, has changed over the course of the day.

Soler, 32, opted out of the final season of his three-year, $36MM deal with the Marlins back in November after belting 36 home runs while hitting .250/.341/.512 on the season (126 wRC+). Soler posted the second-best walk and strikeout rates of his career at 11.4% and 24.3%, respectively, and Statcast pegged him in the 81st percentile or better in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate and barrel rate.

It’s the type of power profile that the Giants have lacked in recent years. The 2023 Giants ranked 19th in the Majors in home runs (174), 24th in runs scored (674), 28th in average (.235), 24th in on-base percentage (.312) and 27th in slugging percentage (.383). The Giants notoriously haven’t had a player deliver a 30-homer season since Barry Bonds in 2004, and they’ve only had one 20-homer hitter in their lineup in each of the past two seasons (Joc Pederson with 23 in 2022 and Wilmer Flores with 23 last year).

Soler brings a wholly different brand of power. Last year’s 36 big flies were only the second-most he’s hit in a season. Soler paced the American League with 48 homers for the Royals back in 2019, and while injuries have limited him to just two 30-homer seasons in his career, he’s averaged 32 homers per 162 games played in his career. Dating back to that 2019 breakout, Soler ranks 17th among 302 qualified hitters with a .248 isolated power mark (slugging minus batting average). Overall, he’s batted .240/.331/.488 during that time.

The path Soler takes to get to his production isn’t the most straightforward. He’s a streaky hitter in-season and a volatile one from a year-to-year standpoint, with his 2019 and 2023 output teetering on excellent while his 2022 numbers were decidedly below average. Even in the 2021 season that saw Soler catch fire following a trade to Atlanta and go on to be named World Series MVP, he was hitting just .198/.288/.377 in 360 plate appearances at the time Kansas City traded him. He slashed .269/.358/.524 following the change of scenery. A three-year deal with Soler figures to come with its share of peaks and valleys, but he’s the type of bat who can near-singlehandedly carry a lineup for brief stretches, given his top-of-the-scale power.

Though he has plenty of experience in the outfield corners, Soler isn’t likely to see much time there in San Francisco. His defensive grades have continue to decline over the years, and the Marlins only played him sparingly in right field — including just 241 innings last year. Soler has only twice reached 500 defensive innings played in a season. He’ll serve as the Giants’ primary designated hitter, though it’s possible he’ll make occasional appearances in left or right field.

That’s particularly true given that Soler does offer a nice right-handed complement to left-handed corner outfielders like Michael Conforto and Mike Yastrzemski. Production against left-handed pitchers, in particular, was a problem for the 2023 Giants (.245/.306/.376). Soler’s mammoth .277/.393/.688 output against lefties last year represents an enormous boost to San Francisco in such situations.

Adding Soler to the lineup likely cuts into the playing time for J.D. Davis and/or Wilmer Flores against right-handed opponents, but that’s a trio of potent right-handed bats to be able to trot out against opposing southpaws. New backup catcher Tom Murphy (career 126 wRC+ against lefties) should help in that regard as well, as will a full season of switch-hitting catcher Patrick Bailey, who feasted off lefties but struggled against righties. Broadly speaking, the San Francisco lineup looks far more equipped to handle left-handed pitching than last year’s club.

At $14MM per year for Soler, the slugger’s decision to opt out his final year and $13MM in Miami was overwhelmingly the right call. Miami opted not to issue a qualifying offer to Soler, so they won’t receive any draft compensation for his departure, nor will San Francisco be required to forfeit a draft pick or any international money.

Prior to the deal with Soler, San Francisco’s rough $155MM payroll was more than $33MM from their 2023 levels and more than $46MM south of the team’s franchise-record payroll level. That leaves plenty of room for the Giants front office to remain aggressive in free agency, even if ownership isn’t willing to set a new highwater mark on player payroll. That’s true even if the dollars are evenly distributed over the life of the three-year term, but if the deal is at all backloaded there’ll be perhaps a bit more to work with for the upcoming season.

To that end, it’s worth noting that the Giants have been linked to high-profile names like Blake Snell, Matt Chapman and Jordan Montgomery in recent weeks. A deal with Soler shouldn’t preclude them from continuing those pursuits, although with Soler now penciled in as the primary DH, a Chapman signing could perhaps be a precursor to a trade of J.D. Davis. Time will tell whether that’s worth pondering much or goes down as one of many unanswered offseason hypotheticals. Regardless, it seems quite likely that Soler’s signing won’t be the Giants’ last significant addition this winter.

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