Jorge Soler

How Soler, Giants became perfect match ahead of 2024 season

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Oracle Park can be brutal to hitters, but for the game's most powerful players, it would seem to be a fun place to take batting practice, at least. The left-handed hitters can take aim at McCovey Cove, while right-handers have the Coca-Cola slide and giant glove staring them down. 

Jorge Soler has the kind of power that makes you think the glove isn't out of reach, but he smiled Sunday and said he has never aimed for it during BP as a visitor. 

"That glove is too far," Soler said.

Maybe, but not by much. In Soler, the Giants are adding one of the game's strongest hitters to their lineup, and perhaps their most physically imposing position player since Michael Morse.

The powerful build and swing resulted in 36 homers last season, and as the winter approached, Soler opted out of the remaining $13 million on his Miami Marlins deal. The Giants thought his preference was to stay on the East Coast, but they made a hard push anyway, knowing that some other teams were balking at guaranteeing Soler too many seasons but that a three-year deal didn't bother them at all.

To help seal the deal, the front office turned to two infielders Soler noted he's friendly with. Thairo Estrada and Wilmer Flores both live and train in Florida in the offseason and they joined team officials on a final Zoom call. 

"Farhan (Zaidi) did a great job closing this one," manager Bob Melvin said. "We had a Zoom call with him and Estrada and Flores were both on him and I think they were pretty impactful. I appreciate them going to bat for their team and trying to sign somebody like this."

The Giants had a need for right-handed power going into the offseason, but Zaidi did not see an easy fit with Soler early on. The Giants didn't think they had enough at-bats to add Soler as a DH, but trading Mitch Haniger to Seattle last month opened them up. There were -- and still are -- similar right-handed DH-types on the market, but the Giants zeroed in on Soler. 

"We just view him as being someone in his prime," Zaidi said. "He was obviously an All-Star last year, and as we've talked about, we aren't really putting a huge premium on shorter-term deals. There are times when it makes sense, but for us, he's (about to turn) 32, he was an All-Star last year. We think getting off the turf in Miami and focusing on being a DH are things that are going to help keep him healthy."

Soler has played more than 100 games just four times since getting called up by the Chicago Cubs a decade ago, with multiple hamstring and oblique strains on his chart, along with a back injury that cost him the final two months of the 2022 season. But when he has played in recent years, he has produced big power numbers.

Soler appeared in all 162 games for the Kansas City Royals in 2019 and led the American League with 48 homers. He hit 27 for the Royals and Atlanta Braves in 2021 and was named World Series MVP after homering three times in 20 at-bats. Last season's 36 homers came in 137 games, and many of them landed in spots that most Giants hitters in recent years could only dream of. 

The Giants expect Soler to be their first 30-homer player since Barry Bonds in 2004, an astounding streak that Soler is aware of. He said a few friends sent him that stat after he agreed to terms with the Giants, although he didn't want to make any predictions. 

Melvin will give him every chance to chase 30, and he said Sunday that Soler will be his everyday, platoon-proof DH. He has faced Soler from the other side, and he knows the kind of impact he can make on a lineup.

"As a manager, you always know where he is and when he's coming up," Melvin said.

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