NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore came to the Winter Meetings with a mission: Moore needed to cut payroll while remaining competitive for a possible championship run in 2017.Moore completed phase one of that process by dealing All-Star closer Wade Davis to the Cubs on Wednesday for
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore came to the Winter Meetings with a mission: Moore needed to cut payroll while remaining competitive for a possible championship run in 2017.
Moore completed phase one of that process by dealing All-Star closer Wade Davis to the Cubs on Wednesday for 24-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler.
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By doing so, Moore shaved $7 million off a payroll that had been projected to top $145 million in 2017, which would have been a franchise record. Davis is owed $10 million next season; Soler is owed $3 million in '17 and $4 million in each of the following three seasons. Soler's bonus of $9 million has been paid off.
And Moore got in return for Davis, a pending free-agent after 2017, a player in Soler with a high offensive ceiling who is signed through 2020.
"It was pretty clear that Wade Davis was going to be the player most attractive to other teams at this particular stage of the market," Moore said. "… But we like that we have some control with Soler over the next four years. Right field has several players that are perhaps hitting free agency after the 2017 season, so this was an important deal for us.
"It was a tough deal to trade an All-Star closer in Wade Davis, someone who has been so instrumental to our success. We certainly wouldn't have been able to win a World Series without Wade."
Royals manager Ned Yost seemed highly enthusiastic about getting someone with Soler's power potential -- Soler has 27 homers in 211 big league games.
"It's exciting, but it's bittersweet," Yost said. "Wade Davis and what he has accomplished for us the last couple of years … it's hard to turn around and say goodbye to someone as talented as that. Wade had such an impact on us winning a world championship. So many memorable games."
Davis, too, was wistful about his departure.
"The fans in Kansas City were amazing," Davis told MLB.com. "They made me tick every time I stepped on the field. And anytime I saw fans off the field, they treated me like family. I want to thank the fans in K.C. for all the love and support."
Soler is expected be used in right field and as a designated hitter.
"A little bit of both," Yost said. "He's about an average right fielder. He might be a tick below average, but he's 24 years old. But we have in my opinion the best outfield coach [Rusty Kuntz] in baseball. He will continue to grow and get better. He's got a plus arm, and he's a big strong kid."
Yost wasn't positive, but he envisions Soler hitting in the middle of the order.
"The deal is 30 minutes old and you want me to lock him into a spot in the lineup?" Yost joked. "But yeah, he's a middle-of-the-order guy. We lost 30 homers with [Kendrys] Morales. So to have that power potential back in the lineup is going to be key for us. There's tremendous upside that will only get better. We still have the ability to have the revolving DH, too, with him."
How much power potential does Soler have?
According to Statcast™:
• Soler hit a home run with an exit velocity of 114.5 mph on Sept. 15. No one on the current Royals roster has hit a home run that hard in the Statcast™ era.
• Soler's home runs had an average exit velocity of 105.9 mph in 2016. That was highest on the Cubs and higher than anyone currently on the Royals' roster (min. 10 homers).
• Soler's home runs had an average distance of 408 feet in 2016. That was highest on the Cubs and higher than anyone currently on the Royals' roster (min. 10 homers).
And for those wondering if Soler's power translates into Kauffman Stadium home runs, here's how his home run chart would have played out at The K.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Now a member of the defending World Series champions, Davis has the talent (1.18 ERA, 0.89 WHIP from 2014-16) and supporting cast to be a major fantasy asset in '17. But the right-hander could rank outside the top tier of closer options thanks to health concerns stemming from a pair of arm-related disabled-list stints last season. With Davis in the Windy City, Héctor Rondón will remain in a setup role -- and off '17 mixed-league draft lists -- while Kelvin Herrera could join the second tier of fantasy stoppers as Davis' likely replacement.
Now free from Chicago's outfield logjam, the powerful Soler could be on the verge of a breakout '17 campaign. While the slugger did not post head-turning stats in '16, he made encouraging strides that were masked by poor batted-ball fortune (.276 BABIP) and a lengthy absence due to a hamstring injury. Showing an improved grasp of the strike zone, the outfielder notched a career-best 0.5 BB/K ratio (0.3 over '14-15) with 12 homers across 264 plate appearances. With Soler gone, Javier Báez too should be viewed a major fantasy breakout candidate. Baez could produce more than 20 homers and 15 steals as the Cubs' regular second baseman now that versatile defender Ben Zobrist has the opportunity to work primarily in left field.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015.