The Kansas City Royals announced on Saturday that they’ve optioned outfielder Jorge Soler to Triple-A Omaha, signifying a sharp turn in the season of a player that they hoped would be one of the anchors of their lineup in 2017.
Soler, 25, was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a one-for-one deal for former All-Star closer Wade Davis this offseason. While he didn’t get a lot of playing time for the World Champion Cubs and had posted a steady but unspectacular .238/.333/.436 slash line with 12 homers in 2016, the Royals were attracted to his power potential and four remaining seasons of club control. They went into the season planning to use him as their everyday right fielder.
Instead, Soler started the season on the disabled list with a strained left oblique. He wasn’t activated until May 6, and by then rookie Jorge Bonifacio had already established himself as a steady presence in right field. Bonifacio, who has a team-best .850 OPS in 129 plate appearances, hasn’t slowed down, and Soler ended up starting just 16 games — 13 in right field and three as the designated hitter. He wasn’t getting playing time, having started just one since May 24, so the Royals chose to give him an opportunity to get everyday at-bats rather than having him rot on the bench.
There’s a solid chance that the Royals will either trade Lorenzo Cain before the deadline or lose him in free agency this winter, so it’s highly possible that there will be an opportunity for both Soler and Bonifacio to start at some point.
The Royals have been giving Alex Gordon reps in center field this season, presumably to find out whether he’s capable of taking over for Cain. If Gordon moves to center, that would theoretically free up the corners for Soler and Bonifacio. With that said, the Royals’ top prospect, Hunter Dozier, is close to being major-league ready and has seen some time in the outfield.
Soler is just one of a few Royals offseason acquisitions who have floundered thus far in 2017. Travis Wood, who was signed to a two-year, $12 million deal and thought to be a rotation candidate, has instead spent the entire season in the bullpen and has posted a 9.17 ERA and 2.32 WHIP over 17 appearances. Starter Jason Hammel, who received a deal for two years and $16 million, has a 5.93 ERA and 1.60 WHIP over 11 starts.
It’s not saying much, but the Royals’ best free agent signing has actually been DH Brandon Moss, who has nine homers but has posted a .192/.266/.432 slash line in 139 plate appearances this season.