As major league teams scattered for the annual midsummer All-Star Break, and front offices began gearing up for the trade deadline frenzy to come, the concept of a realistic trade market for Jorge Soler seemed far-fetched at best. Trapped in an epic season-long slump—the KC Royals’ slugger took an awful .186/.279/.320 slash and seven home runs into the Break—imagining a deal developing for Soler before the July 30 trade deadline sized up as an exercise in futility.
Strange and surprising things happen in baseball, however, and such is now the case with Soler. As difficult as it is to digest, there might be a market for him.
If Soler is indeed suddenly marketable, it is a feat of his own doing, one born of the near-rampage he’s been on since he and the Royals resumed play after the All-Star Game. He singled, walked, and scored two runs in the club’s first game back, a somewhat positive effort considering what came before it. But whatever little optimism that game might have generated disappeared when Soler went hitless in his next two games.
That’s when he went to work.
After a team day off, Soler homered against the Brewers in Milwaukee July 20, then took the Brewers deep again the very next day. After another club off day, Soler singled and walked twice against Detroit and worked the Tigers for a walk the next night. The KC Royals don’t pay him for bases on balls, of course, but three walks in two games suggested Soler might be taking a more selective approach at the plate.
And he walked twice more the next day. More importantly, however, Soler hammered two homers, and added a single for a 3-for-4 afternoon against Detroit.
He wasn’t done. Soler slammed a leadoff second-inning homer in the Royals’ series opener with the White Sox Monday evening and followed it with another home run in the fourth. Those blasts gave him six homers since the All-Star Break, just one less than the seven he’d hit before it.
Soler didn’t add any home runs against Chicago Tuesday, but he did manage a single and another walk. He’s hitting .263 in the 10 games Kansas City’s played since the All-Star Break, a clip far surpassing anything Soler had done since Opening Day. Six of his 10 hits have been home runs and his half-dozen RBIs over that span represent one-sixth of his season total.
Has Soler’s suddenly hot bat created a market for the KC Royals to exploit?
Ten games do not a season make, especially in Soler’s case. His battles with the bat this season can’t be forgotten or wiped away in so short a period. But his recent homer binge tends to prove his power isn’t gone and might tempt another club to consider the merits of bringing him aboard.
Any serious interest in Soler must almost necessarily come from an American League club or clubs. Soler may not have an iron glove, but his defense certainly won’t increase whatever trade value he might have recently established. That alone limits his marketability to the AL, where teams can use him exclusively as a designated hitter.
Baseball media isn’t ablaze with Soler trade rumors; whatever market may now exist for him is probably soft, holding little (if any) promise of an impressive return. But that shouldn’t dissuade General Manager Dayton Moore from immediately gauging interest in the player the Royals believed was worth trading Wade Davis for in the winter of 2016. He’s playing on a one-year contract and, unless he sustains his currently hot bat through the end of the season, shouldn’t be a viable candidate to return to Kansas City next season.
Simply put, this is the time for Moore to strike while the iron may be hot. And if he can’t—if there isn’t any new market for Soler at all—the KC Royals should still thank him for the 48 homers he hit in 2019, and then move on without him.
Jorge Soler’s bat is sizzling for the KC Royals. Whether that translates into a sudden, but short, trade market remains to be seen.