11:33 AM CDT, August 26, 2014
The Cubs decided to wait until Wednesday for Jorge Soler’s major league debut because of the long flight today from Seattle to Cincinnati.
Soler was playing for Triple-A Iowa Monday night in Tacoma when he got the news of his promotion, shortly after being removed from the game following a three-run home run.
But jet lag was only one reason for the delay. The Cubs also wanted to avoid Soler having to face Reds ace Johnny Cueto right off the bat, opting to start him Wednesday against Mike Leake.
The Cuban slugger is expected to arrive in Cincinnati before game time tonight, but will not be activated. The Cubs don’t need to make a roster move until Wednesday, and with the September call-ups coming they could option a rookie to Iowa for five days and call him back up on Monday.
Soler’s arrival may not be treated with the significance of Javier Baez’s debut in Colorado on Aug. 5, but he’s certainly an integral part of the Cubs’ youth movement. Javy Time and Soler Power will be part of the Cubs' fans lexicon for years.
The assembly line is currently in motion, with a new prospect every couple weeks, and a few more—although not Kris Bryant—expected on Monday.
When Soler signed his nine-year, $30 million deal with the Cubs in June 2012, it became the longest contract in team history, surpassing Alfonso Soriano's eight-year, $136 million deal after the 2006 season.
The difference was president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer were signing Soler to win down the road, while former general manager Jim Hendry was trying to win then.
The Cubs outbid the Yankees, Dodgers and a few other teams for Soler, after missing out the previous winter on Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who signed with the A’s.
It took a couple weeks to make the signing official, but Soler was added to the 40-man roster on June 27, 2012, as the team designated pitcher Randy Wells for assignment to open up a roster spot. Wells is out of baseball.
Soler’s development plan included a gradual process the first two years, followed by a quick ascension from Double-A to the Cubs the last couple months. He played a couple weeks in the Rookie League games in 2012 before a promotion to Class-A Peoria, where he hit .338 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 20 games. The Cubs then opted not to send him to the Arizona Fall League, believing he needed more work with team hitting instructors on his stride and the positioning of his hands.
"It's not a question of talent,” Epstein said. “It's a lot about 'the Cubs way' that we want to teach him, and it's a good chance to get one-on-one instruction, ” Epstein said. "That type of thing is difficult to do in the (Arizona) Fall League ... where you're trying to compete and stats count.”
Soler played in only 55 games with Class-A Daytona last year due to injuries and a suspension that drew headlines because he had a bat in his hand when confronting an opposing team near their dugout. It turned out to be an isolated incident, and Soler hasn’t had any problems since.
After another hamstring injury held him back at Tennessee, the Cubs sent him to rehab in Mesa, Ariz., where he met new coach Manny Ramirez. The two hit it off, and Ramirez was considered a mentor to Soler in Iowa.
Now it’s Soler’s time to show he’s the real deal. His addition gives Cubs manager Rick Renteria the chance to have three sluggers--Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Soler--batting together in the lineup, an appealing option.
The Cubs still say Bryant won’t be called up in September, so the rest of the puzzle will have to wait until 2015.
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