DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
by Quinn Sweetzir
I’m pretty sure that the scope of the Toronto Blue Jays awful 2017 season has been beaten to death at this point. The underperforming pitching, declining defense, and abysmal offense has resulted in a rather mediocre 46-54 record, leaving the status of the Jays trade deadline strategy up in the air.
Although cases could be made for everything from buying everyone to a Jeffery Loria esque fire sale, the club seems destined to make moves which will do more to improve the clubs chances of winning in 2018 than in this season or the more distant future. This decision, motivated largely by the business interests, is not necessarily in the best interests of the club in the long run from a player personal standpoint, but would certainly require the club to return to contention in 2018 for it to be considered at all successful.
Many moves will need to be made if the club wishes to achieve this, including everything from improved starting pitching to consistent corner outfield acquisitions to reliable depth as a whole. This may seem like a large list of needs on the surface, however the acquisition of one seemingly unspectacular player could do a surprising amount to fill these needs.
Of course you know I’m talking about Yangervis Solarte if you read the title, but exactly how much can he do to improve this club's chances of winning in 2018. On the surface, a 29 year old with a career high of 2.8 fWAR in a season wouldn’t be able to offer more to the Jays than any other mediocre regular. Upon further inspection however, there is a rather surprising number of reasons to acquire Solarte, who manages to improve the Jays in ways which wouldn’t be expected from a quick glance at his batting average.
One reason for acquiring Solarte is his rather solid plate discipline, an area where several different Blue Jays have struggled at points this season. For his career, Solarte has a career strikeout rate of just 11.4% percent, an impressive total which borders on excellence according to Fangraphs . In addition, his seemingly average career walk rate of 7.9% becomes rather exceptional when you consider his 87.0% contact rate, which likely results in less opportunities for walks as a result of increased balls in play.
Although his plate discipline is impressive, his versatility is also something which would be of tremendous help to the Blue Jays. Solarte has spent most of his career as a third baseman, before transitioning to second base this season, however he's also played 1B, SS, and LF at various points in his career. This means that if Devon Travis manages to return from injury and take back the starting 2B job, Solarte could still be useful by providing other players with rest, without resulting in a significant performance drop off, particularly from an offensive standpoint. In the meantime, Solarte would slot in as a very good, starting caliber second baseman.
Moving beyond 2017, Solarte could slot in one of a variety of roles, including a solid backup infielder who actually capable of putting up decent offensive numbers, as a 1B should Justin Smoak start to decline offensively back to his career norms, or as an outfielder should the Jays be unable to find better replacements for Jose Bautista and Steve Pearce. It’s the variety of roles which Solarte is capable of playing which makes him a worthwhile acquisition, as acquiring him also allows you to fill out later needs based on general value to the club rather than positional need. The reasons for acquiring Solarte from a versatility standpoint are endless, and this would certainly be of tremendous value to the club in improving their 2018 roster.
Despite strong plate discipline and all would be for nothing if Solarte wasn’t an effective player in general. Thankfully, he’s rather talented, having managed a respectable WRC+ of 109 in his career to date. An above average offensive player who plays up the middle is incredibly valuable to a team like the Blue Jays, who’ve trotted out some combination of Ryan Goins or Darwin Barney in basically every game since Travis was injured. Solarte’s defense isn’t exactly elite, however in general it’s passable, and should be solid enough to feel comfortable with.
In addition to his solid, if unspectacular on field performance, there are other reasons to acquire Solarte looking beyond 2018 and into the future. His contract is incredibly team friendly for someone of his caliber, as Solarte is under club control until 2021 including options which peak at just 8 million dollars. Considering his consistent performance over the years, this seems incredibly reasonable, and is solid enough for Solarte himself could be easily traded if the team falls out of contention outright in the coming seasons with the expectation of a decent return.
It’s obvious why acquiring Solarte would benefit the Blue Jays significantly next season, but despite the advantages, he’s still a fairly average regular who shouldn’t cost the Jays any irreplaceable prospects which would be considered future building blocks. The price to acquire him would probably be a couple decent players, but I can’t see San Diego demanding much more than a player who projects as a 50-grade future big leaguer.
If the Jays really do want to try contending in 2018, then they should give serious consideration to acquiring Yangervis Solarte at this years trade deadline. There are several reasons why the Jays should acquire him, and he could do a surprising amount to help the club content next year, should they chose to go that route. Although it is unlikely that the Jays end up doing this (because you can never predict who the clubs are going to acquire), as it would be a very solid acquisition.