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Marlins sign Jorge Soler to 3-year, $36 million deal

Bruce Sherman follows through on his promise to spend, but it’s a curious fit.

orge Soler #12 of the Atlanta Braves in action against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Marlins officially announced their three-year, $36 million deal with free agent Jorge Soler. Soler has opt-outs after both the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The two sides originally reached an agreement on Saturday night, per multiple reports. In a corresponding move, the Marlins designated Isan Díaz for assignment.

FanSided’s Robert Murray has the thorough breakdown of the contract, which can max out at $40 million:

Soler is coming off a bizarre though ultimately successful age-29 season. Splitting time between right field and designated hitter for the Royals, he performed below replacement through the end of July (.192/.288/.370, 13 HR, 26.9 K% in 360 PA). But a trade to Atlanta rejuvenated him—he thrived near the top of their lineup over the next two months (.269/.358/.524, 14 HR, 18.6 K% in 242 PA). After contributing only two hits during the NLDS and NLCS—sidelined due to COVID-related issues—he had a crucial role in securing the World Series title for the Braves, winning WS MVP honors in the process.

Statcast believes Soler was unlikely on long fly balls. He totaled 30 home runs during the regular season and postseason combined compared to 38 expected home runs (only Trevor Story had a larger discrepancy when it comes to underperforming in that department).

Jorge Soler’s 2021 Statcast percentile rankings Baseball Savant

Soler owns a career .246/.331/.465 slash line over parts of eight MLB seasons with mild platoon splits. He played for an $8.05 million salary in 2021.

As a longtime American Leaguer, Soler has limited familiarity with NL East pitchers. Patrick Corbin is the only arm on any of the division’s 40-man rosters with at least 10 plate appearances against him. The Marlins can only hope that Soler’s three months in the Braves clubhouse gave him some useful intel on how approach matchups versus the reigning champs.

Soler had been linked to Miami since the beginning of the 2021-22 offseason. Miguel Rojas was an early advocate for him and correctly predicted the length of his contract during a November appearance on The Chris Rose Rotation.

Leading up to this deal, Kim Ng and the Marlins brass had been transparently expressing the club’s determination to upgrade at center field as soon as possible. Soler does not help them address that—the Cuban slugger has never made a major league appearance in CF and he’s not about to start now. He is, by any measure, a weak defender in right, making it all the more important that they get a traditional center fielder rangy enough to cover for Soler’s limitations.

Reiterating local reports from Craig Mish and Joe Frisaro, Jon Heyman of MLB Network says the Marlins continue to target Bryan Reynolds (Pirates) and Ramón Laureano (Athletics) as CF solutions. I think Laureano is far more attainable right now.

As of Tuesday morning, Michael Conforto remains the most notable unsigned free agent outfielder. Inking him would have required draft-pick compensation after Conforto declined a qualifying offer from the Mets, but his superior defensive versatility and steadier on-base skills should command a higher average annual value. Should the Marlins have been willing to pay a premium for that?

Soler will wear uniform No. 12 this season, the same number he wore for both the Royals and Braves. Lewin Díaz entered spring training with No. 12. He has switched to No. 34.

Nine other Cuban-born players have played MLB regular season games for the Marlins, but only two were position players (Adeiny Hechavarría and Orestes Destrade). Soler has a more impressive résumé at the time of acquisition than any of the others. He is the rare example of a non-superstar player whose presence could boost attendance at LoanDepot Park (at least early in the season).