Will the Red Sox make a splash before Opening Day? As part of our “free agency fits” series, we?re examining whether several top players remaining on the open market make sense (or don?t make sense) as Boston builds its roster for the 2022 Major League Baseball season.
Jorge Soler was a postseason hero for the Atlanta Braves, but could the outfielder prove to be the missing piece the Boston Red Sox needed?
Soler may be revered this offseason for his heroics that helped push the Braves to a World Series title, but the outfielder is a tricky case heading into his ninth MLB season. His offensive production declined in 2021, which he began with the Kansas City Royals prior to heading to the Braves.
At just 30 years old, Soler still has the benefit of youth on his side. But in a free-agent market that is loaded with top-tier outfielders, where does he fall?
Position: Right field
Age: 30 (Feb. 25, 1992)
Weight: 235 pounds
149 games (602 plate appearances)
27 HR, 70 RBIs, 0 SB
-0.3 bWAR, -0.2 fWAR
661 games (2,587 plate appearances)
121 HR, 343 RBIs, 10 SB
3.6 bWAR, 5.7 fWAR
Why Soler makes sense for Red Sox:
The Red Sox do need a right fielder after sending Hunter Renfroe to the Milwaukee Brewers in a sudden, middle-of-the-night deal back in December. The transaction brought Jackie Bradley Jr. back to Boston and also some promising prospects, but the Sox have yet to fill the hole on the grass.
As it stands, Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez are atop the depth chart in right field, though moving either into that spot leaves holes in left field or at designated hitter, respectively. Jarren Duran also is an option for a call-up to flank Bradley in center. All of this is fine on a game-by-game basis, but one thing is clear: the Red Sox will need to add another capable outfielder this offseason.
While his 2021 numbers were pretty average, Soler did come through in clutch moments for the Braves in the postseason. He was named World Series MVP after launching three home runs in the six-game series en route to Atlanta’s title.
Why Soler doesn’t make sense for Red Sox:
Soler is just fine in the field, with a .980 fielding percentage through 96 games in the outfield while also spending 47 games as a designated hitter.
His offensive production in 2021 — save for the postseason — doesn’t exactly jump off the page, and while that might not be the biggest deal-breaker for the Red Sox considering the other players already on the roster, his fielding skills just aren’t consistent.
Based on what we saw from Soler last season, it’s likely that he’ll have a fairly average season in 2022. Maybe he’d even show flashes of greatness as he did in the World Series. The Red Sox could make do with a fine player, but they certainly don’t have to settle.
Boston picked the right offseason to be searching for an outfielder. Some of the game’s top talent is available, like Kris Bryant. Kyle Schwarber also could be available for a reunion, and Michael Conforto is a capable player who may not have a crushing price point. The most intriguing option is Seiya Suzuki, who has been linked to the Red Sox throughout the offseason.
There’s nothing exactly wrong with Soler, but Boston surely can find a better option on the free-agent market.
Verdict: Not a fit.
Prediction: Soler signs with the Texas Rangers.