Jorge Soler hasn't seen one pitch in professional baseball. He hasn't fielded one fly ball, taken one round of BP. He hasn't even put on a uniform in America yet.
So how does a guy like that earn 30 million?
Simple: That's what the market was.
"Soler's deal is kind of like on an island by itself," Baseball America's Jim Callis said when he joined David Kaplan on WGN Radio Monday night. "He was the last big-time international free agent who's not going to be subject to the new bonus rules. Going forward, if you're under 21 or 22, 2.9 million is the max. In the future, there's going to be a sliding scale. If you're a better team, you're going to have less than 2.9 million.
"It was a case where you had a lot of the big guns -- the Yankees included -- where they figured 'you know what, this is the last time we're going to be able to go all in on one of these guys.'
"It's just the cost of doing business. If you wanted Jorge Soler, it's going to cost 30 million. If you want Cubs' 2012 first-round pick Albert Almora, it's going to cost 3 million. Last year, with the different draft system, the Cubs spent a franchise-record 12 million."
Soler had until July 2 to sign a deal without any limit to spending by the new CBA. Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year deal worth 36 million last winter with the Oakland Athletics. The Cubs were reportedly in on Cespedes and OK with the money, but they wanted more years on the contract.
Soler's nine-year deal accomplished that. Plus, it just makes more sense, as he's only 20 and still a few years away from the big leagues. Cespedes, meanwhile, is 26 and already starring for the A's.
"Individually, you look at some of these bonuses and they seem kind of crazy,' Callis said. "But the flip side of it is, a lot of these guys -- and Soler is included -- you're not just signing the guy. You're signing the guy and getting his rights for six years in the major leagues before he can go anywhere and become a free agent.
"I think a lot of time, it's easy to look when these guys fail and be like 'oh this guy got 2 million and didn't pan out, that's a terrible investment.' But when you do hit on a guy...I'll use Albert Almora as an example. If he's as good as he's supposed to be, he's probably going to be worth -- conservatively -- 60 or 70 million to the Cubs in the first six years of his career and they'll probably play him something around 20 million in salary over that span.
"It's more of a case when you hit, the return of investment on these guys is huge and it more than makes up for the guys who fail. But when you pay a guy a lot of money and he fails or he doesn't get out of Double-A or something, that really sticks in your crawl. But overall, I think the return of investment on these guys is worth it."
Soler instantly becomes one of the Cubs' top prospects, if not the No. 1 guy, and one of the best position player prospects in the game. Of course, not every promising young player hits, and there are many stories of Cuban players failing to live up to their hype.
But Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts saw their man and they went for it. When he was with the Red Sox, Theo was reportedly very upset when the Yankees outbid his squad for the services of Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras. The new Cubs president of baseball operations wasn't going to let the same thing happen this time around.
"I don't think it's any surprise," Callis said. "You look at what Theo did in Boston and what Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod did in Boston and then in San Diego. There's no surprise that these guys are going to be aggressive in player development. It's a shame, really, that the league changed the rules and you can't be as aggressive as you want to be.
"But if fans weren't convinced that Tom Ricketts was in this to win it, he spent 12 million on last year's draft and was very aggressive internationally and then goes and spends 30 million on Soler. You can't ask for much more of a commitment from your owner. If you're a fan, you want to see your owner spending money on your team. And Ricketts has done that.
"Yes, the big-league team is terrible right now and they're going through a down phase, but he's shown that they're going to do whatever it takes to get the top talent available."