In accepting a one-year deal to avoid arbitration, KC Royals slugger Jorge Soler is banking on being able to repeat his 2019 performance this season.
2019 was a season to remember for Royals slugger Jorge Soler. Acquired in the infamous Wade Davis trade years ago, the Cuban-born outfielder/designated hitter’s tenure with the team got off to a rocky start. Hopefully those struggles are a thing of the past, but let’s take a trip down memory lane to show just how we got here.
Soler’s first season in a Royals uniform was a trainwreck. Playing in just 35 games before succumbing to injuries, he posted a .144/.245/.258 line and hitting two home runs, he looked to put that troublesome year to rest heading into 2018. His numbers improved some the next year, but injuries took a toll again.
2018 saw Soler play in 61 games, raising his line to .265/.354/.466. He also tallied nine home runs and 28 RBIs in those contests. This would be his final year in the outfield, as the organization decided that moving him to a full-time designated hitter spot would allow him to focus on staying healthy and putting his most valuable asset (his bat) to good use. It turned out to be the best decision the Royals could’ve made.
Last season, Soler was amazing. He stayed healthy for the whole season, playing in every single game. His .922 OPS ranked in the top 20 of the league. Despite striking out a league-leading 178 times, Soler led the American League with 48 home runs. This shattered the Royals’ single-season record previously held by longtime third baseman Mike Moustakas. Overall, Soler finally made good on the potential he’d flashed through his first five years at the MLB level.
Contrary to what some were hoping for (a contract extension), Soler and the Royals agreed to a one-year, $7.3 million deal to avoid arbitration. He’ll be eligible for arbitration again next season before hitting free agency ahead of the 2022 season.
By agreeing to a one-year contract, Soler is betting on himself in a big way. While his 2019 was spectacular, he doesn’t have a great track record of hitting at such a high level, let alone being able to withstand an entire MLB season. Not having to worry about innings in right field is a plus but still, it’s a risky proposition.
Should he replicate his 2019 success, or something similar, expect the Royals to do everything in their power to lock Soler up long-term. He was one of the league’s best hitters last season and despite his flaws (strikeouts, defense, injury concerns), good hitters are quite valuable. Should he fail to live up to expectations this year, he’ll have very little leverage at the negotiation table.
For the Royals’ sake, here’s to Jorge Soler putting up big numbers again in 2020. They’re a better team with him crushing baseballs, and he should continue doing so this season as he looks to secure a long-term deal.