Giants boost lineup, sign Soler to 3-year deal

Cuban slugger expected to hit cleanup, per manager Bob Melvin

February 19th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants haven’t had a hitter produce a 30-homer season since Barry Bonds in 2004, but on Sunday, they welcomed the man who they hope will finally put an end to that drought.

was among the position players who reported to Scottsdale Stadium after finalizing a three-year, $42 million deal with the Giants, who are expected to plug the Cuban slugger into the cleanup spot as their everyday designated hitter this year.

Soler, who will turn 32 on Feb. 25, is coming off an All-Star campaign with the Marlins, for whom he slugged 36 home runs while batting .250/.341/.512 with a 128 OPS+ over 137 games in 2023.

“It’s exciting,” manager Bob Melvin said. “This is a guy that we’ve been talking about for a while. A legit 30-home run guy. He’s had success on big stages. You look at some of the hard-hit metrics, he’s top five it seems like every year. This is a guy that gets you real impact. As a manager, you always know where he is and when he’s coming up.”

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said talks with Soler began to pick up after the Giants traded Mitch Haniger to the Mariners last month, as the club had a need for right-handed power and more flexibility to offer at-bats at the DH spot.

Soler’s preference had initially been to stay on the East Coast, though he said the Giants impressed him during an interview over Zoom, which included a recruiting pitch from infielders Wilmer Flores and Thairo Estrada.

“We had a Zoom call with him, and Flores and Estrada were both on,” Melvin said. “I think they were pretty impactful. I appreciate them going to bat for their team and trying to sign somebody like this.”

Oracle Park isn’t known for being particularly friendly to hitters, though Soler has had no trouble producing there in the past, batting .317 (13-for-41) with two home runs over 12 career games in San Francisco.

“I think I’m going to hit like I always do,” Soler said in Spanish. “I’m going to try to do the same thing I’ve always done. I’m going to stay focused and let the park dictate what’s going to happen.”

Soler will be a corner outfield option this spring, though Melvin joked that the Giants “kind of want to bubble-wrap him and get him to the season,” so he probably won’t see much action on the field. Soler appeared in only 32 games in right field with Miami last year and hasn’t graded out well defensively over his career, so he isn’t expected to factor much into the outfield mix this year.

Fellow newcomer Jung Hoo Lee is projected to be the starting center fielder and will be flanked by Michael Conforto in left and Mike Yastrzemski in right, giving the Giants far more lineup continuity than they’ve had in recent years. Melvin has already said he plans to roll with Lee and Soler in the No. 1 and No. 4 spots, respectively, allowing the club to mix and match from there.

“It’s nice to be able to kind of work backwards from having those two spots locked in, if that’s what Bob decides to do,” Zaidi said. “When you have certainty at certain spots in the lineup positions, then it kind of gives you a little bit more wiggle room with our other spots, so I think we’ll see the benefits of that.”

Between Soler, Lee (six years, $113 million), right-hander Jordan Hicks (four years, $44 million) and catcher Tom Murphy (two years, $8.25 million), the Giants have committed $207.25 million to free-agent additions this offseason, the second-highest total in the Majors behind the Dodgers, who spent over $1 billion on Japanese superstars Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto alone.

While there are still several top free agents available, including reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and third baseman Matt Chapman, Zaidi suggested that the Giants’ roster might be set now that the club is on the eve of its first full-squad workout.

“It’s a little bit more disruptive to add at this point,” Zaidi said. “Anybody who’s a free agent, we theoretically had three and half months to figure out a deal. If it hasn’t happened yet, at some point organizationally, you just need to turn the page and focus on the players you have in-house. You never rule anything out, whether it’s now or May or June or whatever. But at this point, where the calendar is, obviously, it makes any further additions unlikely.”