Officially, there is no communication allowed between players and teams during the ongoing MLB lockout. But that won’t stop teams, including the Chicago Cubs, from plotting a course forward once the doors of baseball open again – whenever that might be.
After acquiring two solid arms for the rotation, the Cubs now need to focus on bullpen moves and offensive weapons. Specifically, Chicago could definitely benefit from a power hitter in the middle of the lineup.
After the trade deadline moves that sent Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo (along with the non-tender of Kyle Schwarber before the season started) packing, the Cubs lost four guys who can all pop 25 or more home runs on a year-in, year-out basis. Though the front office’s approach at the plate seemed to primarily be home run or bust in recent years, they still shouldn’t be completely without power.
Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel have been pleasant surprises in the ISO department while Ian Happ and Willson Contreras remain, but adding in that guy who can send 40 long balls over the fence is still ideal.
Enter Jorge Soler. The former Cubs outfielder went on an absolute tear in the second half this year. So much so that he wound up winning World Series MVP for the Atlanta Braves this November. In 2021, Soler slashed just .223/.316/.432 which seems atrocious but don’t let that fool you. The changes Soler made at the plate in the second half, albeit in a smaller sample size, are extremely eye-opening and provide optimism.
In 94 games with the Kansas City Royals, Soler blasted 14 home runs while batting just .192. Upon his arrival in Atlanta, though, something clicked for Soler. The Cuban-born slugger dramatically improved his second half slash to an impressive .269/.358/.524 while also smashing 14 home runs in just 55 games, or 118 fewer plate appearances. In fact, in 55 games as a member of the Braves, Soler had only three fewer total hits than he did with the Royals in those 94 games before the deadline.
Chicago Cubs: Jorge Soler could add some more pop to this lineup
In the second half, Soler raised his ISO from .134 to .291, while increasing his wRC+ from 65 to 139. Always a true power hitter, the most important stat to me regarding Soler is simply how he raised and sustained his batting average 77 points in the second half of the season. Sliding Soler, who will more than likely be more cost-effective than a guy like Kyle Schwarber, into the clean-up spot is a fantastic way to help add some pop to this lineup.
Should he keep up his work on maintaining a decent batting average and boosting his OBP (a career-high .358 in the second half with Atlanta), Soler could prove to be one of the better bargains out there this winter.