The Chicago Cubs have reportedly won the bidding for free agent Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The 20 year-old Soler, who defected from the Cuban National team in 2011, was coveted by many teams, including the Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sox, among others. But it was the Cubs, who were most closely linked to Soler from the beginning of his free agency process, who have ended up with the Cuban prospect.
Unlike former Cuban teammate Yoenis Cespedes, who surprisingly signed with the Oakland A's this February on a four year, $36 millon deal, Soler will need time in the minor leagues to hone his game before being able to play in the majors. Cespedes started the season as Oakland's Opening Day center fielder, and the 26 year-old has an .826 OPS and six homers in 35 games.
Soler is a five tool athlete who if eligible, would have ranked among the top 40 prospects in baseball coming into the 2012 season, and would have been a top five pick in the loaded 2010 draft. The terms of the deal agreed to by Soler and the Cubs is unknown at this point, but it's expected to be worth more than the five year, $15.5 million deal that Leonys Martin signed with the Rangers last May at age 23. Now 24, Martin has a .947 OPS with four homers and seven stolen bases in 26 games with AAA Round Rock.
The Cubs really needed a player the caliber of Soler to bolster their farm system, which had been ravaged in recent years under the former regime led by Jim Hendry. With Soler in the fold along with Anthony Rizzo (acquired in the offseason by the new Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime), 2011 first round pick Javier Baez, and 2012 first round pick Albert Almora, Chicago at least has a good base to begin the rebuilding process that Hendry could never commit to in full.
UPDATE: CBS's Jon Heyman is reporting that Soler got around $30 million from the Cubs, and that the deal is for nine years. WOW, I don't think anyone ever imagined a nine year deal being put on the table, and that makes the $30 million look like a bargain in comparison to the $36 million that Cespedes is getting over just four years.