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Soler, Royals agree to deal, avoid arbitration

@FlannyMLB
January 10, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Once believed to be on their way to an arbitration hearing, outfielder Jorge Soler and the Royals officially reached an agreement on a salary for 2020 on Friday afternoon. The two sides originally did not commit to a contract by Friday's noon CT deadline to exchange figures,

KANSAS CITY -- Once believed to be on their way to an arbitration hearing, outfielder Jorge Soler and the Royals officially reached an agreement on a salary for 2020 on Friday afternoon. The two sides originally did not commit to a contract by Friday's noon CT deadline to exchange figures, meaning both sides were prepared to submit numbers for salary arbitration, but a deal has been finalized.

The one-year deal is worth $7.3 million, a source told MLB.com, and it includes incentives valued at $50,000 for an All-Star Game appearance and $100,000 if Soler wins the 2020 Hank Aaron Award. The club hasn't confirmed the details of the contract.

Still, the Royals remain interested in signing Soler to a long-term deal.

“Just because we exchange numbers doesn’t mean we can’t eventually do a multiyear deal,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore told MLB.com. “There’s no deadline on that.”

In fact, the Royals remain interested in locking up Soler and other players who fit into their blueprint for the future -- namely Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier -- to long-term deals, as they have in the past with players such as Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez.

Salary arbitration, explained

“[Owner] John [Sherman] has been extremely supportive in our vision to sign our young players to long-term deals,” Moore said. “It just has to make sense for both sides. But we’ve always maintained an interest in keeping our young talent.”

Soler, 27, was initially able to file for arbitration because of a provision in his contract that he signed originally with the Cubs in 2012 that allowed him to opt out of the deal after the 2018 season for arbitration. Soler made $4 million with the Royals in 2019.

Logically, Soler would have been able to make significantly more through arbitration after his breakout season in 2019, in which he hit a franchise-record 48 home runs. Soler’s original contract now is voided. He remains under club control through '21 and again can be arbitration-eligible after the '20 season unless a multiyear deal is agreed upon.

Had Soler gone to arbitration, just how much of a salary bump he would've received through the process obviously is debatable. His agent, Casey Close -- who also represents Alex Gordon -- has a solid reputation for protecting his clients through prudence in these matters, especially in the face of huge-swing losses in arbitration.

Websites such as MLB Trade Rumors to Cot's Contracts predicted that Soler could have been awarded somewhere from $10.5 million to $11.2 million in arbitration.

Industry experts, however, believed those figures to be inflated, simply because Soler has qualified for the batting title only once in his career, which was last season.

Arbitration judges tend to value “length and consistency" when reviewing cases, according to sources, which may have contributed to a 2020 salary for Soler’s below the $10 million to $11 million range.

The Royals have gone to great lengths in the past to avoid messy arbitration hearings, which tend to only create harsh feelings between the player and the club. Under Moore’s regime, the club has gone to an arbitration hearing only once. That was in 2018, when reliever Brandon Maurer asked for $3.5 million, lost his hearing and was awarded the Royals’ offering of $2.95 million.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.