Since breaking into the major leagues in 2014, at the age of 26, Padres’ second baseman, Yangervis Solarte, has only gotten better, or at least he has performed better each and every year.
Despite putting in great seasons at the minor league level, putting together a career minor league batting average of .289, he bounced from the Twins to the Rangers to the Yankees before getting his break, going on a tear, and subsequently getting traded to the Padres in the 2014 Chase Headley trade deadline swap.
While the deal has turned out pretty one-sided, in favor of the Padres, the question at hand today is what the future holds for the Padres’ keystone infielder.
Pros And Cons
There are really two main options for Padres general manager, A.J. Preller, at this point; to keep Solarte or to trade him. For both options, there are pros and cons.
Despite not making the majors until age 26, and never making any top prospects lists, Yangervis Solarte has been one of the Padres most productive, consistent, and constantly improving players since they acquired him. Always hitting in the top half of the Padres’ lineup, he can hit in the two hole to set up Wil Myers with a runner in scoring position, or he can slot in the four hole, where his surprising pop can help protect Myers from getting pitched around in a young and unproven Friars lineup.
Not only has he been good, but he’s been getting better; with an improved batting average, slugging percentage, and home run total in each season. He eclipsed his season high for home runs last year with 15, despite only appearing in 109 games, about two-thirds of his total from 2015, the year he hit 14 HR. And he is not an all-or-nothing slugger either, carrying a career 11.3% strikeout rate, meaning he puts the ball in play consistently, forcing the defense to make a play, and giving his team a chance to take an extra base.
Although debuting at a more advanced age gives the Padres more team control over a valuable player, it also poses the problem that he may not age well, despite steady improvement in his first three MLB seasons. While he is in his prime right now at 29, the Padres can’t expect to contend for at least two years, at which point Solarte will be on the wrong side of 30. History does not suggest there is a reason to think Solarte will age better than most players do, and keeping Solarte in the hope that he does is not a plan for success.
Despite having started all of the 2017 Padres games at second base so far, Solarte has (in the past) played second base, third base, shortstop, first base, and left field. And while he won’t be winning a Gold Glove at any of those positions, versatility is very valuable to a club with many young prospects who may not pan out. Not only that, but it will also allow manager, Andy Green, to give his rookies a rest, who are not physically accustomed to a 162 game season, and may be prone to injuries without rest. Just ask the Red Sox how valuable Brock Holt has been for them since 2013, having appeared at every position except pitcher and catcher.
Con: Blocking A Prospect
While Solarte is versatile, the positions he plays are all occupied in the minors by some of the Padres’ most promising farm hands. First base belongs to Wil Myers or Josh Naylor, second base is for Luis Urias, third and short could be split between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jose Rondon, and the outfield is already overbooked. So if the Padres do end up keeping Solarte, they could be blocking a young player with more promise than an aging veteran who costs more, as well as missing out on trade opportunities to plug any holes in their roster or get more prospects to further the rebuild along.
Pro: Clubhouse Presence/Leadership
Yangervis has been one of my favorite players to watch over the past three years, not only because of his abilities, but because he is just such a fun guy. Whenever I see the camera pan towards Solarte in the dugout or before the game, he is always joking around and lightening the mood. That is valuable for a team expected to lose 90+ games this year, with a young roster, many of whom won a Triple-A title last year at El Paso, and therefore won’t be accustomed to losing, which could stunt their development. Solarte can also provide leadership as a seasoned veteran who knows the ropes, which will always be in demand in the majors.
In summary, Yangervis Solarte’s future with the club will probably be decided by Preller’s preference on the pros and cons above and which he values more. I personally hope he stays with the club because he is very fun to watch play, as well as the fact that he has only gotten better since coming to America’s Finest City.