The Kansas City Royals’ single-season home run king could be headed to arbitration this winter. What does that mean, and how much could he command?
Over the years, the Kansas City Royals haven’t been a fan of the MLB’s arbitration system. Under general manager Dayton Moore, in fact, the team has dealt with an arbitration hearing just once. The franchise is notorious for working deals out with its players and eliminating the middle man.
The case of Jorge Soler is an interesting one. The 27-year-old designated hitter (who cameos in the outfield from time to time) is coming off his best career season. After his first five years were filled with inconsistency and injuries, Soler bounced back to play all 162 games in 2019. Posting a .265/.354./.569 line and clubbing a franchise-record 48 home runs, it was a season to remember for the Cuban-born slugger.
With that performance, though, is going to come an increase in pay. Although Soler is under contract for the 2020 season at a $4 million figure, he has the ability to opt out and elect to go the arbitration route. Although Moore and the Royals could work with Soler’s team on a contract extension, reports on the two sides completing a deal have been quiet.
Assuming a deal doesn’t get done, and it’s entirely possible that it could in due time, let’s touch on how much Soler would make following an arbitration hearing. Putting together a complete, healthy, extremely productive season certainly plays in his favor. Injury concerns don’t play much of a role in this situation, especially when compared to a longer-term commitment.
It’s difficult to predict exactly how much Soler would be worth on the open market. A little over a month ago, Royals Review’s Max Rieper had the following to say on the situation:
"“Through arbitration, Soler could probably expect $8-10 million in salary next year. Regardless of whether he opts out or not, he would then have to go through the arbitration processafter the 2020 season, and would be eligible for free agency following the 2021 season unless the Royals sign him to an extension.”"
All things considered, this seems like a fairly accurate estimate. Soler would see his pay at least doubled ahead of the 2020 season with the opportunity to go to arbitration again a year from now. The Royals would still have club control over him until the conclusion of the 2021 campaign.
While Soler was fantastic last season, the market for non-defending designated hitters simply isn’t great in today’s MLB. Home runs are becoming easier and easier to come by and positional versatility is a huge plus. On top of that, Soler strikes out a ton. Luckily for him, he also has an innate ability to draw walks.
At the end of the day, Jorge Soler is a very important part of the Kansas City Royals’ lineup. The rest of the team isn’t great at hitting for power. For all of Soler’s shortcomings (defense, baserunning, striking out too much), he’s one of the most lethal power bats in the league. Here’s to hoping his camp and the front office can work out a deal and avoid arbitration. Not only would it preserve Dayton Moore’s undefeated record in that category, but it would ensure one of the game’s most fun players to watch remains a Royal for years to come.