More moves to follow? Marlins have flexibility to keep adding
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
JUPITER, Fla. — Right guy for the right price is pretty much how the Marlins view signing slugger Jorge Soler.
The 30-year-old outfielder reached agreement on a three-year, $36 million contract on Saturday. The contract includes opt outs after the first and second year. With regards to the big picture, the Marlins will worry about 2023 and 2024 when the time comes.
Their focus is on the here and now. All that matters is 2022, which actually should be refreshing to a frustrated fanbase that’s been asked to stay patient far too long.
The deal is expected to be finalized in the next few days.
Here’s some thoughts, and insights we’ve gathered at ManOn2nd about adding Soler and what other moves may follow.
The cost has an AAV (average annual value) of $12 million, which is much lower than had the Marlins signed higher-priced free agents like Nick Castellanos (five years, $100 million with the Phillies) and Kyle Schwarber (four years, $79 million).
As followers of MO2 know, we favored the Marlins signing Castellanos, a local Broward County native. Miami instead went with Cuban-born Soler, who has a home in Miami. Either player would be a fan favorite in South Florida.
We get it. Scott Boras represents Castellanos, and Michael Conforto. The Marlins were reluctant to meet the asking price.
Soler has been more up-and-down than Castellanos, who should thrive hitting in the middle of the Phillies’ order.
But the decision was made to go with Soler, and that’s fine. He still fits the mold of being an impactful player. And his contract is structured as such that allows prospects like Peyton Burdick and JJ Bleday not to be rushed.
What Soler does for the Marlins is provide a legitimate threat. He can hit anywhere from first to fifth in the order. Adding another proven veteran lengthens the lineup. Now Brian Anderson may hit seventh, and Jesus Sanchez sixth.
The fact Soler is a free agent addition, the Marlins now don’t have to part with a package of three or four prospects, which is what it would take to trade for Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds. An FYI, we’ve heard the Marlins weren’t planning on including Bleday and/or right-hander Max Meyer for Reynolds.
The Marlins clearly have coveted Reynolds, who has four years left of club control remaining.
There’s still an outside chance a trade for Reynolds could be made. There’s now no urgency to make a deal with Soler locked up. Keep this in mind, the Marlins may also revisit talks for Reynolds at the July trade deadline.
And Reynolds isn’t the only center fielder the Marlins have explored deals with.
Also worth noting: The Marlins, who were in on Castellanos and Schwarber, wanted to avoid any risk of signing a big contract and not have it pan out. They just had money owed to Wei-Yin Chen and Giancarlo Stanton come off their books, and they are being cautious of making a deal that they may regret.
A club like the Marlins doesn’t have the financial resources to absorb bad contracts, like, say, the Phillies.
On the flip side, we don’t know which Soler will show up with the Marlins. Remember, he combined to hit .223 with the Royals and Braves last year, but still added 27 homers and 70 RBIs. Then you have 2019, when he smashed 48 homers, drove in 117 runs and hit .265, while striking out a league-high 178 times.
The upside was displayed last year, after he was traded to the Braves. In 55 games with Atlanta, Soler hit .269 with a .524 slugging percentage. He went on to become the World Series MVP, belting three homers in the series.
A dive into the numbers shows Soler hits fastballs well. His xBA (expected batting average) against them last year was .283 and his expected slugging percentage was .595.
Soler also has the type of raw power that plays favorably in a pitchers’ park like loanDepot. Per Statcast, his average exit velocity last year was in the 83rd percentile, and his max exit velo (117.9 mph) was in the 99th percentile. His hard contact rate is in the 79th percentile.
Getting Soler signed now is beneficial for other reasons, as well.
Foremost, he gets into camp less than three weeks until Opening Day.
His arrival addresses the club’s biggest need, which is to add a power bat, over any specific position. The 2021 Marlins ranked 29th in runs (623), 28th in homers (158) and 29th in slugging (.372).
The Marlins still are exploring other trade and free agent options for bullpen help. As of now, they’re prepared to stay with Dylan Floro as closer. That could change if something else makes sense. The front office is monitoring relievers who might be available.
As for the outfield, Soler projects to be in left, Jesus Sanchez in center and Avisail Garcia in right.
The Marlins, at this point, prefer to go with an offensive-first outfield over a true center fielder. Defensively, they may struggle at times. But the bigger issue is scoring runs.
Jon Berti is a likely defensive replacement in center, if needed.
The Marlins also are leaning towards keeping all their big league power threats. That means Jesus Aguilar and Garrett Cooper are likely to split time at first base and designated hitter. Those plans haven’t changed.
Trevor Time: All-Star left-hander Trevor Rogers threw two innings in a Triple-A game on Sunday, because the Marlins had a scheduled off day. The southpaw gave up a home run in two innings with two strikeouts and no walks. He threw 30 pitches with 19 strikes, while his fastball was 94-96 mph.
Rogers is working on refining his slider this spring. He experimented with grips in the offseason, and actually picked up some pointers while walking videos of Trevor Bauer demonstrating his slider.
“I knew a weakness of mine was my slider,” Rogers said. “I’ll be the first one to admit that. It was improving, but it wasn’t where it needed to be. I looked at [Clayton] Kershaw, but he was too high [release point] for me. I looked at Chris Sale, but he’s actually a little lower [release] than I am. I was like, ‘Ok, if I can find someone in between, who is a good guy that can spin the ball? Trevor Bauer was the first one who came into my head. I looked up his breaking ball, and his video popped up. I watched it. It made a lot of sense. The next day I tried it, and I felt it the first time. I saw the break. I saw the finish. It took off from there.”
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