By Jim Bowden, Andrew Baggarly and Zack Meisel
A San Francisco Giants player hasn’t hit 30 home runs since Barry Bonds last did it 20 years ago. A one-time World Series MVP will try to end that streak this season.
The Giants are signing slugging outfielder Jorge Soler to a three-year, $42 million contract, major-league sources said. The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the agreement.
Soler recorded the second-best season of his nearly decade-long career in 2023, with a .250/.341/.512 slash line and 36 home runs. The 31-year-old opted out of his deal with the Miami Marlins, who otherwise would have paid him $13 million this season.
He signed a three-year deal with Miami after the 2021 season, a year in which he was languishing with the Kansas City Royals until they dealt him to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline. He flourished in August and September for Atlanta and helped lift the Braves to a title that fall. His three homers against the Houston Astros earned him World Series MVP honors.
In 2023, Soler ranked near the top of the league leaderboard in barrel rate and expected slugging percentage. He recorded healthy hard-hit and chase rates. That all added up to a hitter who registered the second-best walk rate, strikeout rate and home run total of his career. Overall, he logged a 126 wRC+, suggesting he was 26 percent more proficient than the league-average hitter. He only fared better in 2019, when he socked an American League-leading 48 homers for the Royals and registered a 136 wRC+.
Defensively, he has provided far less value, and he spent much of last season as the Marlins’ designated hitter. That, in addition to his streakiness at the plate, explains how he has only recorded two seasons with an fWAR total north of 0.7. For as strong as his 2023 season was, he posted just a .695 OPS in 72 games the year prior.
Once a consensus top-25 prospect with the Chicago Cubs, Soler will be playing for his fifth team.
Soler will be 32 on Opening Day and should be restricted to designated hitter duties if the Giants stay true to their pledge to upgrade their defense this season.
He is a disaster in the outfield, and his chase rate and strikeout rate make him a poor fit for the offensive skills that the Giants front office values highest. But their lineup was woefully short on right-handed power, and Soler, a terrific fastball hitter, is coming off a 36-homer season in a hitting environment that might be even more challenging than San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark.
The Giants are still expected to be in the bidding for third baseman Matt Chapman, so the agreement with Soler either pushes Michael Conforto into more regular time in left field or potentially sets up a trade that would ship out Conforto, J.D. Davis or both players.
This wasn’t a particularly strong free-agent outfield class. Teóscar Hernández settled for a one-year pillow contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. returned to the Arizona Diamondbacks on a three-year deal. Jason Heyward, Kevin Kiermaier, Andrew McCutchen and Harrison Bader landed one-year deals.
The Athletic ranked Soler at No. 19 on its free-agent big board, behind only two other outfielders: Jung Hoo Lee, who signed a six-year, $113 million pact with the Giants, and Cody Bellinger, who remains unsigned. The Athletic projected a three-year, $45 million deal for Soler.
(Photo: Orlando Ramirez / USA Today)