Dominoes around the league are finally beginning to fall, especially on the starting pitching market.
Already this offseason we’ve seen Michael Soroka, Cal Quantrill, Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, Sonny Gray, and Kenta Maeda find new homes.
On the offensive side of things, the market has been much quieter. The highest-profile signing has been Jason Heyward re-upping with the Dodgers, while the highest-profile position player to switch teams has been Eugenio Suárez, who was traded to the Diamondbacks.
The top names remain up for grabs. Shohei Ohtani is far and away the best available hitter this winter. Fellow free agent Cody Bellinger and potential trade candidate Juan Soto are in the next tier down.
A bit further down, there are quite a few power-hitting bats in need of new homes. One is Jorge Soler, who hits the ball harder than practically anyone and is a free agent for the second time in his career.
Last year, Soler hit 36 home runs with 75 RBI. Along the way, he posted an OPS of .853 (128 OPS+) and scored 77 runs. He led the Marlins in runs scored, home runs, slugging percentage and walks.
Typically prone to strikeouts, the 31-year-old lowered his strikeout rate in 2023 from almost 30% the year before to just over 24%. Meanwhile, his walk rate was the highest it’s been in years.
It’s also worth mentioning that Soler is a Statcast darling. Last season, he was in the 94th percentile in xwOBA and xSLG, 81st in average exit velocity, 91st in barrel rate, 84th in hard-hit rate and 83rd in walk rate. He hits the ball hard, has a strong eye at the plate and would be a fit in virtually any team’s lineup.
There are a multitude of teams in need of some pop in the middle of their order. While we wait for the floodgates to properly open, let’s find the best fits for Jorge Soler’s services.
The Guardians are a team that does not get talked about enough as one that could add an impact bat. As things currently stand, Josh Naylor is projected to be the club’s everyday designated hitter, a role that Soler would take if he came aboard. (Naylor would then return to first base.)
Last season, Guardians DHs hit just .225 with an 81 wRC+ and a total of 21 home runs. Injecting Soler and his light-tower power would bring that mark up considerably. He would not fit very well in a defensive outfield that already consists of Myles Straw, Steven Kwan and Ramón Laureano, so he’d have to be comfortable being a permanent DH.
Cleveland finished third in the AL Central last season, but the division is still very much up for grabs. Adding a power bat would go a long way to changing the direction of this franchise in the immediate future.
Los Angeles Angels
While the Guardians received suboptimal production from their designated hitters last year, the Angels were fortunate to be in the exact opposite position. With Shohei Ohtani lining up at DH nearly every day, it’s easy to see why the Angels had the best DH numbers in baseball.
Now, Ohtani is a free agent and the Angels have a massive black hole in their lineup. Brandon Drury and Michael Stefanic are two internal candidates for the spot, but both can bounce around the diamond a bit and would be more valuable as utilitymen rather than everyday DHs.
The Angels must know that their contention window won’t be open forever. With ownership making it clear that they’re not going to rebuild (yet), this offseason is going to be telling.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers know what it’s like to lose their designated hitter to free agency, as J.D. Martinez is also on the open market. Roster Resource has Michael Busch as the top internal candidate to take the spot, but Soler would take precedence here.
In a lineup that already consists of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy and six other recognizable names, adding Soler to the mix would make things downright unfair. A club that hit 249 home runs (second-most in the majors) last year isn’t the most obvious fit for another power-hitting bat, but Soler and the Dodgers are a solid match – that is, if the Dodgers don’t land Shohei Ohtani.
There is perhaps no contending team more in need of a power bat than the Seattle Mariners. The departure of Eugenio Suárez took away a ton of thump from the lineup. As of right now, only two players on the current roster topped 20 home runs in 2023: Julio Rodríguez and Cal Raleigh.
Another look at Roster Resource shows that as of right now, no one in the Mariners’ starting lineup had a slugging percentage above .500 last season, and only one hitter, J.P. Crawford, had an on-base percentage above .340. Soler would be a huge boost in the middle of the order.
Notably, the Mariners reportedly won’t be involved in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, so it makes a ton of sense that they’d be targeting one – or more – bats in the tiers below Ohtani.
Toronto Blue Jays
Another team needing power, the Blue Jays might lose Matt Chapman and Brandon Belt this winter, so they could certainly use Soler. He would largely take on the DH role, but he could also play left field in a pinch if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is handling DH duties.
The Blue Jays have long been a team that carries fearsome power hitters in their lineup. Adding Soler to the ever-growing list of big boppers would turn an already scary lineup into an absolute powerhouse.