Jorge Soler made his Wrigley Field debut this afternoon and the Cubs faithful were happy with what they saw. In addition to a 4-2 win over the Brewers, Soler went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a run scored.
After hearing a big ovation from the home crowd for his first at-bat in the second inning, Soler poked an opposite-field double and eventually came around to score on a bloop single from Welington Castillo. The 22-year-old was later credited with another double in the sixth, this time after hitting the ball off the right-center field wall. He managed to advance to third on the play due to an error by center fielder Gerardo Parra. The Cubs were then given a bit of a scare when Soler was hit in the leg by a line drive off the bat of Castillo, but the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder was fine.
With today’s performance, Soler became the third player in the last 100 years with an extra-base hit in each of his first five games in the majors. Enos Slaughter (1933) and Will Middlebrooks (2012) are the only others. A Hall of Famer and someone who has a .651 OPS since his rookie season. Interesting duo.
Soler is now hitting .526 (11-for-19) with three home runs, four doubles, seven RBI, and a 1.761 OPS over his first five games since his call-up from Triple-A. He’s yet another reason for Cubs fans to be really excited about the future.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.