It took four months — and it certainly wasn’t the name most fans were dreaming of at the start of the offseason — but the San Francisco Giants have finally found some middle-of-the-order thump. Late Monday night, the team agreed to terms with former Marlins DH Jorge Soler on a three-year, $42 million contract, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Soler had declined a $13 million player option with Miami last November, and now he’s found a higher average annual value (plus an extra two years of financial security) on the open market.
Jorge Soler has agreed to a three-year deal with the Giants I’m told.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 13, 2024
At this point, after two straight listless seasons and another winter gone without landing a star (at this point, landing Cody Bellinger or Blake Snell feels like a pipe dream), it’s hard to imagine any acquisition really moving the needle for Giants fans. But while he might not be Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani — and he certainly won’t match the offseason the rival Dodgers have had so far — Soler promises to provide precisely what this San Francisco offense has been missing most in recent years.
More specifically: a whole bunch of power. Soler is coming off a season in which he slashed .250/.341/.512 (128 OPS+) with 36 homers and 24 doubles in just 137 games, helping fuel the Marlins’ unlikely run to a Wild Card spot last season. At 6’4, 235 pounds, he’s built like a middle linebacker, and he’s up there looking to do one thing and one thing only — elevate and celebrate.
All of Jorge Soler's 36 homers from the 2023 season.— KNBR (@KNBR) February 13, 2024
The last 30+ HR season by a Giant was 2004, when Barry Bonds hit 45. pic.twitter.com/3jmSVxYYJb
Health and consistency have been issues throughout his career; he’s played more than 100 games just four times in nine full big-league seasons, and he finished with an OPS below league average four times over that same span. But when he’s locked in, few hitters in the league are more dangerous. Just look at 2019, when Soler led the AL with 48 homers while with the Kansas City Royals. Or look at 2021, when the Braves acquired a struggling Soler at the trade deadline and promptly watched him slug 14 homers in the team’s final 55 games — plus three more in their six-game World Series triumph over the Houston Astros.
To say that the Giants have struggled in that department would be an understatement. Soler has two 30-homer campaigns in his last five seasons; San Francisco hasn’t had one of those since Barry Bonds back in 2004. San Francisco ranked a dismal 27th in slugging percentage in 2023; Soler’s .512 mark would’ve been the best on the team, with just one other regular (Wilmer Flores) above .450.
Granted, that’s not all the Giants’ fault. Oracle Park, with its spacious dimensions and its location right on the Bay, has long been unfriendly to fly balls. But the fact remains that this team has been woefully short on impact bats in recent years — especially at the designated hitter spot, which Zaidi has chosen to fill on a rotating basis rather than parking someone there full-time. That’s good for roster flexibility, but in the universal DH era, we’ve seen more and more teams opt for a single impact bat. Barring unforeseen changes, San Francisco was looking at cycling through the likes of Flores, Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis, LaMonte Wade Jr., Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski and Heliot Ramos.
This team has, for lack of a better term, gotten a bit too cute during Zaidi’s time at the helm, and its handling of the DH spot — trying to cobble together above-average production via a pu pu platter approach rather than just ... signing an above-average bat — is exhibit A. With a crowded position-player picture, finding a full-time designated hitter was the one spot at which San Francisco could realistically make a major offensive upgrade, and Soler fits the bill. Will it win back a disaffected fan base? Probably not. But it is, genuinely, something, a jolt of offense for a team whose pitching staff was a few more runs away from Wild Card contention.