Essentially any contending (or non-contending) team could have added Jorge Soler at this year’s trade deadline. Signed to a one-year extension, Soler ended up a superfluous $8 million liability on a Royals team that was destined to go nowhere in 2021.
At the trade deadline, Soler had thus far posted a putrid .192/.288/.370 slash line, generating anemic offensive production 21 percent lower than the league average hitter (79 wRC+). His 13 home runs in 94 games was a far cry from his 48 homer season in 2019, a year in which he set Kansas City’s franchise record for the most home runs in a single season.
As of July 31st of this year however, Soler was viewed as an overpaid outfielder / designated hitter who didn’t play particularly good defense, and did not have a bat that made up for his fielding deficiencies.
What a difference a change of scenery makes, as it was an entirely different story upon his arrival in Atlanta.
The Braves picked up Soler for a song, as it was a deadline salary dump by a Royals team that clearly was not contending for a playoff spot. In exchange for the future World Series MVP, Atlanta gave up Kasey Kalich, a high-A relief prospect with a limited ceiling.
It did not take Soler long to find his groove in Atlanta. In the remaining two months of the regular season, he hit 14 home runs (one more than he hit in the first four months of the season with KC). He generated a wRC+ of 132, and posted a .9 fWAR (compared to a -1.1 fWAR with the Royals this season) and bumped his OBP 70 points to a respectable .358.
The NLDS against Milwaukee was a forgettable series for Soler, as he went 1-for-11 with two walks in the three games he started. His terrible playoff performance in the LDS led to him barely being used against the Dodgers in the NLCS, where he came off the bench to pinch hit in the eighth inning games five and six (he managed a double in the second appearance).
Soler was largely absent from the LCS, then the World Series happened.
Braves manager Brian Snitker started Soler in five of the six World Series games, using him again as a pinch hitter in game four. Coming into the game as a pinch hitter following a game-tying Dansby Swanson home run, Soler launched the second part of a back-to-back home run inning against Astros’ reliever Christian Javier that ultimately put the Braves ahead for good.
All told, Soler went 6-for-20 with three walks in the World Series. Four of the six hits were for extra base including three home runs and a double. Soler’s impactful performance gave him a a Championship WPA of over 23 percent, roughly meaning Soler’s individual performance represented nearly ¼ of the Braves’ probability to win the World Series. It’s a remarkably high number, particularly for a player who didn’t even start every game.
Soler became the second Cuban born MLB player to win a World Series MVP Award, putting him in the same company as 1997 Marlins World Series MVP Livan Hernandez.
Soler is a free agent this offseason, it’s anyone’s guess as to his true talent level, as this is a player who saw the highest-highs and the lowest-lows all in the span of about four months.
It’s a great story for Soler, for the Braves, and for aspiring Cuban players. Congrats to Jorge Soler and the Atlanta Braves on their first World Series Championship since 1995.