Jorge Soler signed a three-year, $42 million deal with the San Francisco Giants late on Monday evening. The 2021 World Series MVP was one of the few remaining impact bats still available on the open market.
While many Reds fans opined about the team's need for a right-handed hitting outfielder this offseason, Cincinnati's front office preferred the switching-hitting Jeimer Candelario. Did the Cincinnati Reds make a mistake?
Candelario's three-year, $45 million contract is in the same ballpark as the deal that Soler signed with the Giants. Will Cincinnati regret prioritizing Candelario over Soler?
Did Reds make mistake with Jeimer Candelario after seeing Jorge Soler contract?
While there are some similarities between Jeimer Candelario and Jorge Soler, there's plenty of difference as well. Soler's carrying tool is his power. The soon-to-be 32-year-old ranked among the 90th percentile or higher in barrel-rate and expected slugging percentage (xSLG) according to Baseball Savant. Soler also posted a walk-rate of 11.4%.
Candelario isn't going to match Soler's massive power numbers, but he has plenty of gap-to-gap power. Candelario led the league in doubles (42) during his 2021 season with the Detroit Tigers.
Soler is strictly a right-handed hitter, while Candelario offers the ability to swing the lumber from both sides of the plate. Over the past three seasons, both players have an identical 109 OPS+. The two players are separated by single digits in on-base percentage during that same span, and Soler's OPS is just a fraction better than Candelario's.
Jeimer Candelario's bat isn't the problem
What this conversation really boils down to is positional fit. Signing Candelario brought Cincinnati's infield total to seven. Shifting Spencer Steer to the outfield makes that number a bit more manageable, but six everyday-caliber infielders is more than most clubs employ.
Though an outfielder by trade, Soler is much more suited to be a team's primary DH. Of the 132 games Soler played in 2023, only 32 were in the Miami Marlins outfield. Defensively, Candelario is much more versatile and the far superior player.
So while some Reds fans will bemoan the fact that Jeimer Candelario is a bad fit for the Cincinnati Reds, it's not as if Jorge Soler would have been much better. Soler's defense in the outfield would have forced Jonathan India to see more time at second base rather than DH, which was reason enough to steer clear of the All-Star slugger.
Neither option presented Cincinnati with the best fit positionally, but either one of Candelario or Soler would have looked nice wearing a Reds jersey on Opening Day. The club chose the former rather than the latter, and fans are eager to see how things play out in 2024.