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Posted: Saturday June 30, 2012 4:04PM ; Updated: Saturday June 30, 2012 6:31PM

Cubs sign Cuban prospect Soler

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The Cubs signed Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler to a nine-year, $30 million deal

Soler, 20, will initially report to the team's minor league facility in Arizona

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Jorge Soler has officially joined the Chicago Cubs, signing a nine-year, $30 million deal that could make the 20-year-old Cuban outfielder a major piece of the team's future as it rebuilds under team president Theo Epstein.

"We think he provides a ton of potential power for us," general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday in announcing the deal. "We scouted him heavily. It's obviously a significant commitment for us but we feel like he fits in very well with what we're trying to do. He's the right age, the right talent and we're excited to finally get him started here."

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Soler will start out in right field and will initially report to the team's minor league facility in Mesa, Ariz., to work out and get ready for games. Hoyer couldn't project how long it might take Soler to be ready for the majors.

"Let's get him into games first. But he's 20 years old and we're really impressed with the looks we've got in games. One thing his agents did a very good job of, they put him in a lot of games down in the Dominican," Hoyer said. "They let him play in a lot of games and he performed so we're hopeful that's a harbinger of good things, but it's hard to tell until he gets into games."

Soler batted .304 in seven games during the 2010 World Junior Championships, helping Cuba to a bronze medal.

"He has huge power and it's hard to find power in today's game and that's a big part of why we're willing to make that kind of commitment is that it is hard to find power," Hoyer said. "He's just a huge guy with bat speed and has always generated a lot of power."

Earlier this year, the Cubs signed Cuban left-hander Geraldo Concepcion, who is now pitching in Class A. The Oakland Athletics made a big splash by signing another Cuban outfielder, Yoenis Cespedes, to a four-year, $36 million contract in February. And on Friday the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, $42 million deal.

Hoyer said the plan is to bring Soler along slowly.

"We're not going to try to speed him through the minors. There is no reason to do that. He's got to prove himself like anyone else in the system," he said.

"I think we have to do a really good job of focusing on his assimilation. For any player coming from Cuba this is a lot different and we have to understand that," Hoyer added. "Professional baseball is hard for any player, let alone someone that is coming from a completely different culture."

Soler gets a $6 million signing bonus, of which half is payable upon Major League Baseball's approval of the contract and the other half by Jan. 13.

Soler's salaries are $1 million for the first two years, $2 million for the following two years, $3 million for next two years and then $4 million for each of the final three seasons.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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