By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — After hearing his name as part of trade rumors all offseason, Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler wasn’t affected at all by the addition of two more outfielders added to the mix in the last three days. A 24-year-old Cuban native, Joler has been too busy honing his own skills to be distracted by the Cubs’ front office moves.
Entering his second full season on the big league 25-man roster, Soler rededicated himself to conditioning and weight loss this offseason. The additions of Dexter Fowler and veteran Shane Victorino don’t appear to have hurt Soler’s feelings, and he still believes he’ll get plenty of at-bats.
“I really cannot worry about my playing time,” Soler said through translator-coach Frank Font. “I will get my opportunity and chance. I will do my job and try to help the team.”
Soler was told by manager Joe Maddon before the new outfielders were added that he would get reps and playing time in left and right field. Soler had played right field exclusively during his professional career.
“Yes, they have talked to me about going out to the left field position,” Soler said with his usual smiling expression in place. “I am not worried about the position I am playing. My job is to get my body in the best shape for the season.”
Like all of his teammates from 2015, Soler was happy to see Fowler make his surprise entry to Cubs spring training on Thursday.
“This was a great surprise for me because he was a great teammate,” he said. “We all had a great time together last year.”
Though he’s been hampered by injuries early in his career, Soler showed the baseball world what his potential was all about last October. He had nine consecutive at-bats in which he got on base in the playoffs last fall.
“I had a lot of focus in the games during the playoffs,” Soler said. “During the regular season I would go out of mind after a bad at-bat and get lazy in the field. During the playoffs, I learned to focus more on my at-bats and my defense.”
The wake-up call this offseason began when the coaching staff and front office told Soler to get into better condition and prepare for a 162-game schedule.
“First, I lost a lot of weight,” Soler emphasized. “I lost 10 pounds, and I want to lose a little more. This will help my legs and help keep me on the field as much as possible this year.”
Soler was the target of the Padres, Indians and Rays this offseason. Those clubs were offering pitching and outfield prospects in return. The Cubs had many internal discussions about Soler before concluding that his upside is still untapped.
Soler will be in the rotation battle with Fowler and Kyle Schwarber for outfield playing time. Only Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward is scheduled for every day in the outfield at this point.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.