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The Jorge Soler Trade was the Right Move for the Cubs

In December 2016, trading Jorge Soler was the right move for the Cubs. Yes he won World Series MVP, but in the end the Cubs did the right thing.

Jorge Soler Cubs Braves
Photo: USATSI

We all watched Jorge Soler mash a baseball that could still be flying in Houston in Game 6 of the World Series. That homer locked him in as the lead candidate to win the World Series MVP.

It was never really close. Soler hit three home runs during the World Series to help the Braves earn their first title since 1995.

November 2 will always be a special day for now the two-time World Series champion.

After a performance like his this October, naturally fans will look back in hindsight to when the Cubs traded Soler to the Royals before the 2017 season. Even former Bears linebacker Lance Briggs chimed in on Twitter Tuesday night.

The Trade

Soler was traded shortly after the offseason began following the Cubs winning the World Series. The Cubs traded him to the Royals for closer Wade Davis. Davis was coming off two All-Star seasons, compiling 59 saves in those two years.

With Aroldis Chapman entering free agency, the Cubs knew they were unlikely to retain Chapman. He was already a public relations nightmare anyway, but that’s a deep dive for another day.

The rumors said the flame thrower was headed back to the Yankees. He ultimately did to the tune of five years, $86 million.

This left the Cubs bullpen with many questions. Heading into 2017, outside of proven arms Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, the Cubs didn’t have any candidates to take over the closer role. Enter Davis.

Wade Davis

Davis was everything the Cubs could have hoped for in a season where they were trying to repeat as champions. He finished with 32 saves in 58.2 innings pitched, a 2.30 ERA, and went to his third consecutive All-Star game.

He was a significant piece to the Cubs postseason success in 2017, locking down all three saves in the NLDS against Washington, sending the Cubs to their third consecutive NLCS. The Cubs’ failure to repeat was not his responsibility. He was one of the best closers in the National League.

Jorge Soler

Soler always had the upside. The power was always there. He was ranked No. 3 on the Cubs Top 30 prospects on MLB Pipeline in 2015. We knew he was going to be good one day, especially after watching his first 97 plate appearances at the end of 2014 when his OPS at the end of the season was .904.

Soler showed flashes at the plate all throughout the 2015 season. He finished the season with a .262/.324/.399 slash line in 101 games. He hit 10 homers and finished his first full major league season with a .723 OPS.

Meanwhile, Kris Bryant won the NL Rookie of the Year and Kyle Schwarber hit 16 homers in just 69 games.

At the time, many wondered if the Cubs would move Bryant to a corner outfield spot, a place scouts thought Bryant would be one day. Schwarber, similar to Soler, was a defensive liability and we saw it from both he and Soler in the 2015 playoffs, specifically agains the Mets in the NLCS.

In 2015, Schwarber posted a -0.2 defensive wins above replacement number (dWAR) and a -3 runs above or below average the player was worth defensively (Rtot). His Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) was -0.7. In 825.2 innings, Soler posted a 0.0 dWAR and a -3 Rtot to go along with an unimpressive -7.0 UZR.

There was one thing coming to fruition with Schwarber and Soler. Neither could co-exist on a National League roster if a World Series was in in sights.

What Led to the Trade

It was never a topic of discussion in 2016 because the Cubs were the best team in baseball all season, but Soler struggled in the Cubs’ golden year, finishing with a .238/.333/.436 slash line. He only played in 86 games due to injury. Even after Schwarber’s season-ending knee injury, Soler could not take left field as his own.

The Cubs signed Jason Heyward in the offseason before 2016, and despite one of his worst offensive seasons, the Cubs were locked into seven more years with the Gold Glove outfielder.

Soler had many fun moments in the 2015 playoffs, but only managed 16 plate appearances in the 2016 postseason run.

Thankfully for the Cubs, that team was built on depth, and they were able to go on to win the World Series. Soler made little to no impact. Heyward’s defense contributed more than Soler as a whole.

Just over a month after the World Series ended, Soler was dealt to the Royals. The Cubs decided Schwarber was going to be their full-time left fielder.

Schwarber’s return from injury in 2016 will be forever legendary in Chicago. There was no way the Cubs were not going to invest in his development moving forward.

The organization also knew Ian Happ would soon grace the Northside in 2017 and as much as it pains Cubs fans to hear, Eloy Jimenez was still a part of the Cubs farm system at the time of the trade.

Happ spent most of his minor league playing days at second base, but it wasn’t much of a surprise when he transitioned to the outfield.

There was still depth at the minor league level for the Cubs after this trade.

What Hurts The Most

The majority of Cubs fans don’t have distain for Soler after his memorable World Series, but what hurts the most is all the former players from the 2016 team finding success on playoff teams.

That is fine, but that doesn’t mean the Cubs made a bad transaction on December 7, 2016.

Soler spent almost all of the 2017 season at the Royals Triple-A affiliate, only playing 35 games. In 2018, he played in just 61 games. He didn’t reach his potential until 2019 when he mashed 48 homers while playing a career high 162 games. It was the first time in his career he played more than 150 games in a season.

Even after a career year, however, the Soler Power died out in 2020 and most of this past season until he was traded to Atlanta.

Before being traded to Atlanta, Soler’s slash line was .192/.288/.370 for 2021. He was one of the most unproductive baseball players in the league.

Should the Cubs Pursue Soler in Free Agency?

If the designated hitter is a position in the National League in 2022, the Cubs should at least give Soler’s agent a call. He’s a power bat that still has plenty of upside in his game. He did just win the World Series MVP after all and is only 29 years old.

His value isn’t nearly as high as some of the more coveted names on the free agent market. Perhaps Soler could finally put it together with the Cubs.

The unique thing with the Cubs right now is they have plenty of money, but how they will spend it is still very unknown. With the handful of prospects that are expected to debut in 2023 or 2024, I’m not sure if Jed Hoyer will go try to win the offseason this winter.

We also saw teams like the Braves and Giants who didn’t win the offseason have success. The Giants won 107 games and the Braves won 88. It’s baseball.

However, signing Soler would be a start for the Cubs in their attempt to earn the fan base’s trust back.

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