If we step back and look at what the Braves should do in free agency once the CBA negotiations mercifully resolve themselves (and we all need to hope that both sides don’t screw that up), the biggest thing is that they need to re-sign Freddie Freeman. He wants to be back, the Braves want and need him back...it needs to get done. However, another key player from Atlanta’s run to the 2022 World Series title that they need to strongly consider bringing back is Fall Classic hero Jorge Soler. If you want a quick refresher on how the 2021 season treated Soler before you go any further, make sure you check out our review of him that we posted earlier in the offseason.
Before we get into the case of why to bring him back, we need to temper expectations a little bit. Soler does have a history of racking up strikeouts at times which is to be expected given how hard he swings. If the Braves have to play him in the outfield, do not expect good defensive numbers out of him. His hit tool has been erratic in his career as he has as many seasons (four) hitting below .240 than he does hitting above that mark. The position he is probably an ideal fit is DH and 1) we don’t know for certain that there WILL be a DH in the National League next season even though it seems likely and 2) the Braves currently have Marcell Ozuna under contract and he is also a DH-preferable type. It is also possible that with Soler’s run after the trade deadline and in the postseason, he may be wanting to get paid more than the Braves are willing to offer or at the very least more years.
With all of that said, if the Braves think that the majority of the adjustments/improvements Soler made after they acquired him are going to stick, they absolutely need to consider bringing him back. First and foremost, he provides depth and length to a lineup that really could benefit from both. The Braves have a weird outfield situation at the moment especially if Ronald Acuna Jr. is going to miss the start of the season and we have seen what happens when the Braves have to run out offensively-challenged outfielders on the regular. Even if the Braves either can’t and/or won’t move Marcell Ozuna in the wake of the allegations against him, having Soler means there is not nearly as much pressure on Adam Duvall needing to be consistently productive (which is a BIG if) or for Cristian Pache to have to make a big step forward immediately at the plate. With Acuna back in the fold, if you have Soler #2 in the lineup with his ability to get on base, that allows Brian Snitker to keep Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson further down in the lineup where they can do damage.
Another reason to bring Jorge Soler back is that he provides real power at what should be a reasonably cost-effective rate. The guy is just two seasons removed from a 48 home run campaign with Kansas City and after he joined the Braves last season, he was hitting dingers at around a 40 homer per season rate. Also, we can’t forget the ball that he sent into orbit in Game Six of the World Series that is already going down as one of the bigger postseason moments in Braves history. While he won’t be a bargain bin deal, its reasonable to assume that, especially for a guy with his upside and his raw power, he wouldn’t break the bank.
Another big reason to bring him back is that he gives the Braves a real plan if they end up moving Marcell Ozuna. Look, it is known information now that Ozuna won’t miss any time during the 2022 season after he was given a retroactive 20 game suspension for domestic violence charges against him. What isn’t known is how the Braves front office and, arguably more importantly, the Braves clubhouse feels about him in the aftermath. Ozuna was persona non grata when it came to Braves players being interviewed after playoff games about the players they lost in the regular season as well as in the celebration of their World Series title. On the one hand, it is likely they COULDN’T say anything about him before MLB announced the results of their investigations. On the other hand, I think it is very likely that there is at least a significant chunk of the Braves’ clubhouse that wouldn’t be pleased with his return. If the Braves can sign Soler, it gives Alex Anthopoulos a guy that can DH reliably and allow him to move Ozuna without the pressure of potentially hurting the team’s production too much.
There are other reasons to bring Soler back as well. He seems to be well-liked by his teammates and bringing back would be a boost of morale and a vote of confidence from the front office that this team can run it back next season. Soler was also a World Series hero and the Braves fan base would love to see him on the field in an Atlanta uniform again. If we are looking strictly at the guys the Braves acquired at the trade deadline, amongst that group...Soler is probably the best fit to bring back.