Ex-Cub Soler has ring – and fresh shot to keep can’t-miss promise
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SURPRISE, Ariz. — Throughout the dim years of the Cubs’ rebuilding effort under Theo Epstein, Jorge Soler was touted so prominently by local media that one outlet featured daily minor-league updates on him.
By the time the Cubs’ turnaround began, Soler was still an upside-in-progress proposition as a power hitter and injury-prone, footwork-challenged defender in the outfield.
And by the time the champagne dried up after the Cubs’ World -Series title, he was on his way to Kansas City in a Dec. 7 trade for closer Wade Davis.
Soler, who in 2015 reached base nine consecutive times in the playoffs, was an afterthought by fans — and even the team — after the monthslong championship celebration.
Player-development boss Jason McLeod — while making a point to a Cubs fan asking about the team’s “Respect 90” policy during the Cubs Convention — even went so far as to invoke Soler’s name as an example of a player pulled from a game for a lack of hustle.
Never mind that Soler and manager Joe Maddon both said that never happened. The larger point is that Soler was forgotten.
Even Soler said Wednesday through an interpreter that he wasn’t surprised by the trade because he had heard rumors that his tenure with the Cubs was “OK, not great.”
But Soler turned just 25 less than a week ago, and the Royals believe they might yet benefit from that core-quality upside.
“He’s a raw talent,” said former Cubs manager Dale Sveum, now the Royals’ hitting coach. “The thing we have to remember is this young man still only [has] 1,300 professional at-bats, where half of that development has been in the big leagues. So to me, I think he’s still developing into what he possibly can be.
“Obviously you saw tremendous strength and bat speed and tools and all that,” Sveum said of his first look at Soler in the spring of 2013. “You still see it.”
With Jason Heyward in right field for the next seven seasons and Kyle Schwarber returning this year in left, the rest of his development wasn’t going to happen with the Cubs.
With a fresh start, a designated hitter rule, an outfield rotation and the chance to be a lineup regular, Soler is ready to hit the ground running.
“I think this was the best thing for me,” Soler said.
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