The off-season for the San Diego Padres was memorable as A.J. Preller totally overhauled an offense that was abysmal to watch. Closely watching Padres games last season the whole team just seemed lost at the plate. Everyone on the whole team except for maybe Seth Smith and Yangervis Solarte were consistent easy outs. Will Venable and Chase Headley both regressed and Carlos Quentin was hurt as usual.
Seth Smith was dealt to the Seattle Mariners for right handed relief pitcher Brandon Maurer. The Padres have been coveting Maurer for the last couple seasons. Meanwhile, Solarte was in a heated competition with Will Middlebrooks for the starting third base position in the spring training. He eventually lost out to Middlebrooks, but it wasn’t because if his play. Solarte had a great spring and was set to be the super utility man for the Padres.
Yangervis Solarte played left field, shortstop, second base and third base for the Padres in the 2014 season. This year Solarte has added first base to his resume, as he has spelled Yonder Alonso against left-handed starting pitchers thus far. Solarte is truly a useful player and he has come up with some huge hits in his limited chances. In 469 total major league at bats last season, Solarte hit a respectable .260 with 10 homers and 48 runs batted in. That includes hitting .267 after a July trade with the New York Yankees for Chase Headley.
Now comes the obvious question. Should Solarte be playing in favor of Jedd Gyorko? It is no secret that Gyorko has slumped so far this season, but he is owed too much money to sit on the bench (in my opinion). $35 million dollars for the next five seasons is a huge commitment. With new Padres outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. owed $46.350 million for three years as well, that’s a lot of money for two players who would be sitting the pine on most days. Gyorko needs to start hitting, and he needs to start hitting fast. If the Padres are to find a new home for him he must display some of the power from his rookie year. He just has no trade value right now.
Not only Solarte, but Cory Spangenberg could also be useful at the second base position in replacement of Gyorko. Former Padres GM Josh Byrnes really committed to Gyorko after a 2013 season where he finished 6th in rookie of the year voting. Gyorko hit .248 that season with 23 home runs and 63 runs batted in. He also struck out 123 times and walked 33 times resulting in a .301 on base percentage. Not exactly promising numbers, but the Padres gambled hoping Gyorko would progress. He has not and A.J. Preller is sure to be growing tired. He after all, wasn’t the GM who signed him to the long-term deal.
Rumors swirled last week that the Padres and Philadelphia Phillies were still in discussions over a possible trade. The article indicated that Chase Utley would be a possible target for the Padres. He would make perfect sense for the Padres but Utley has a no trade clause and can reject any deal. So far all indications are he does not want to leave Philadelphia. As of yet. That could change as the Phillies drop out of contention. Some Padres fans still have dreams of a Cole Hamels deal, but that seems very unlikely.
With Jedd Gyorko under contract for the next five years, I can not express how important it is for him to start hitting. He has looked absolutely lost at the plate and the Padres even game him three straight days off to work with hitting coach Mark Kotsay. The team will have to be patient with him for the time being. Gyorko needs to play almost every day. Either he hits himself out of the doghouse he is currently in with most Padres fans, or he will be moved. A.J. Preller has shown that he is not afraid to make a move if he needs to.
The answer to the question is yes, Yangervis Solarte deserves to start of Jedd Gyorko. That would be an easy call except for the fact that the Padres are invested into Gyorko. The Padres are not the Los Angeles Dodgers. There is no way the team will just eat $35 million dollars. Gyorko will be given an extra long leash to turn things around. Solarte provides exceptional flexibility and probably is best suited in that role for now.
Yangervis Solarte does nothing spectacular except play the game the right way. Gyorko has flashed the power that is enticing at a typically weak position. For that he will always have value. Gyorko will have a matter of weeks to turn things around, after that it will be a free for all. This is a very exciting time to be a Padres fan, can you imagine the rumors at the trade deadline? The Padres will probably be linked to anyone and everyone because of Preller’s propensity for the dramatic. Who knows what the future brings in Padreland.