A lot of Chicago Cubs fans watched Jorge Soler go off in the World Series with a smile on their faces. His Fall Classic MVP-winning efforts helped bring back fond memories of his upbringing as one of the brightest young talents in the Cubs organization.
Soler was a top prospect coming up in 2014 and fans got a taste of his potential quickly, watching him blast mammoth home runs at Wrigley Field from 2014-2016. Some might wonder if Theo Epstein trading him to Kansas City ended up being a mistake. However, even with his recent postseason success, it was still the right move to make for both sides.
The native of La Habana, Cuba was signed as an amateur free agent in 2012 for his tremendous power potential. In 2014, Soler looked like a potential centerpiece for the Cubs going forward. He played in 24 games in September of that year and slashed .292/.330/.573 with five home runs and a .903 OPS. He hit very well in the minors, but had one glaring issue: injuries. This would continue to plague him as he became a full-time MLB player.
In 2015 he missed some time with an ankle injury and played in 101 games. He hit 10 home runs with a .262/.324/.399 slash. His postseason was very memorable as he hit .474 with three homers in just seven games. That next year, 2016, is when his numbers and playing time began to dip. In addition to a hamstring injury in early June, a crowded outfield situation reduced his time and he only appeared in 86 games. He hit .238/.333/.436 with 12 home runs and 66 strikeouts in 227 at bats.
In late May he was below the Mendoza Line, and there were questions of if he might be sent down to work on some things. He wound up hitting a lot better later in the season and demonstrated some great power, but the consistency just was not there yet.
The 2016 postseason spelled the end of his Cubs tenure. Of the 17 postseason games the eventual World Series champion Cubs played, Soler only participated in eight of them (16 plate appearances). He was 2-for-13 with a triple, both hits coming in the World Series.
Soler was only 24 when the Cubs won it all in 2016. Chicago, as previously mentioned, had a crowded outfield and Soler seemed to fit the DH build better. At the end of the day, he was not going to get the appropriate development time he needed in Chicago seeing as he could not play every day and injury risk could be minimized as a DH.
Chicago Cubs had no choice but to make the deal for Wade Davis
It was December 2016, just a month after the Cubs won it all. While the players and staff continued to party, Epstein and Co. had to start looking to 2017. Rental closer Aroldis Chapman was gone and they needed to be replaced. While former closer Hector Rondon was still on the team, it was a good idea to get a guy who was top-tier in that category.
Soler was sent to the Royals straight up for Royals closer Wade Davis. From 2014-2016, Davis had racked up 47 saves and pitched to a 1.18 ERA, 0.892 WHIP, 1.86 FIP and 234 strikeouts in 182 2/3 innings. In 25 postseason innings with the Royals he gave up just one run.
Davis in 2017 with the Cubs ended up being their lone All-Star and converted 32 of 33 saves while pitching to a 2.30 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 1.14 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He pitched multiple innings to clinch the NLDS against the Nationals and helped them get their lone NLCS win. Even if it was just for one season, the 2017 Cubs would not have gone as far as they did without Davis.
As for Soler, he would have a rough go of things in both 2017 and 2018, playing a combined 96 games those two seasons due to more injuries. It was 2019 when he finally reached his potential with a league-leading 48 home run season, .922 OPS, 136 wRC+ and 3.6 fWAR. He played in all 162 games, mostly at DH. This season between the Royals and Braves he slugged 27 homers with a .223/.316/.432 slash and 100 wRC+ in 149 games.
In the end, the trade was worth it for the Cubs. Davis gave the team one of the best seasons from a closer we had seen in a while. Soler, despite his prolific power and potential, became expendable once the team had entered the prime window. He was no longer a prospect and getting him for Davis straight up was a good deal, even now in the wake of his World Series heroics.