Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Dodgers should enter the Jorge Soler sweepstakes

While some thought Frank McCourt's final present to Dodger fans could have been to sign Prince Fielder to a mega deal (and the Dodgers were close), there's something a little more practical that could be done; something that would hopefully spur the next Dodger owner to invest in: international scouting.

Who am I referring to? None other than Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler.

Mike Petriello had a great post in December about the Dodgers' lack of international spending in recent years. He said it a lot better than I can, but I'm going to give it a shot.

The Dodgers were once known as one of the most active teams in the international market -- signing players like Fernando Valenzuela, Ramon Martinez, Pedro Martinez Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park, Adrian Beltre and so on. Now, the international signings include Rubby De La Rosa and Kenley Jansen, which isn't bad, but the quantity of international signings has been unimpressive.

The Dodgers spent about $314,000 in international signing bonuses in 2010. Gone are the days of finding the next Pedro or Fernando if the Dodgers refuse to spend on international scouting and spending.

Even with the changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement -- basically eliminating the bidding wars involving international amateur prospects -- the Dodgers should make one final splash before the new rules take effect.

If the Dodgers invest more in international scouting, they could have the upper hand when it comes to acquiring international players.

Now, I'm not saying every guy the Dodgers acquire on the international market will be a great player, nor am I saying the Dodgers need to be in on everyone. But right now, the Dodgers need to be in on Soler.

Soler, 19, is a a big kid (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) who some view quite highly, including Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.
"Protypical RF package with plenty of athleticism and raw power. If he was an American high school kid entering the 2012 draft, he'd be a single-digit pick."
So, he'd be a Top 10 pick -- something the Dodgers haven't had since they drafted Clayton Kershaw at No. 7 overall in the 2006 draft. had this to say about Soler:

"He's already showing the signs of that very-likely plus power, and his very strong arm is certainly real. His contact skills and lack of patience at the plate, though, are equally clear indicators that he's still a very rough gem."
Like with any athlete, there's give-and-take. Despite the concerns about discipline, this is clearly a risk worth taking.

Now, he's going to cost more than your prototypical Top-10 draft pick,

Fellow Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes just signed a 4-year, $36 million deal with the Oakland Athletics (of all teams). The difference -- Cespedes is 26 years old while Soler is just 19. Soler won't cost that much, but I could see a team putting down $20 million to sign the youngster.

For a reference point, the Cubs signed Cuban left-hander Gerrado Concepcion to a $7 million deal (plus another $1 million in incentives). Soler is a much better prospect than Concepcion, hence the higher price tag.

As C. Trent Rosecrans of CBS Sports points out, Soler isn't yet eligible for free agency.

"...Soler has yet to establish residency in the Dominican Republic, but has applied. After establishing residency, Soler will need to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and be cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assts Control before he can sign a contract. Cespedes was declared a resident of the Dominican Republic on Jan. 24 and 19 days later he was cleared by the OFAC..."
So, this might be a bit premature, but it seems Soler gaining residency in the Dominican Republic is just a formality at this point.

Rosecrans also had this to say:

"Unlike Cespedes, whoever signs Soler won't expect him to contribute to the major league team anytime soon, but in the end, he could be even better than the 26-year-old Cespedes."
This is exactly what the Dodgers need right now. I know they have a ton of outfield prospects, but none are on the level of this prospect. And by the time Soler would be ready, the Dodgers would probably have a vacancy in their outfield.

The Blue Jays, Cubs, Orioles, Phillies Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees have all expressed some level of interest in the right fielder. How fitting would it be for the Dodgers to reassert their dominance in the international market -- smacking down some of the "big boys" before the rules change?

For me, this is a no-brainer. Will it happen? Absolutely not, but it's more practical than giving Fielder $160 million.

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