Yangervis Solarte plays the game of baseball with a special type of flare. He enjoys playing the sport and has absolutely no problem letting everyone know it. And why should he? He has earned that right with all he has endured in his life.
Players that participate in the grind of a major league season, with that type of personality, are simply revered by their teammates. It is difficult to get energized to play on a daily basis. The game of baseball is an uphill grind. Solarte brings value to a team that cannot be measured on a stat sheet. He provided the Padres with a solid clubhouse presence, and no sabremetrics guru can record that value.
He is gone though. The San Diego Padres will have to carry on without their emotional leader. In his place, Freddy Galvis has historically shown that same type of youthful flare for the game. He could be helpful in “picking the team up” as his addition clearly looks to be a calculated move by Preller and the Padres. Galvis is only signed for one more year, so it remains to be seen what the Padres have in store for them at the shortstop position for the 2019 season and beyond. Ron Fowler did indicate recently on Mighty 1090 in the morning with Ben Higgins, that the Padres would like to secure the infielder past the 2018 season. Galvis could be offered an extension soon.
With Solarte out of the equation, immediate focus for a potential replacement at third has fallen on the shoulders of Chase Headley. Yes, that same Chase Headley who was drafted by the Friars and dealt to the Yankees in July of 2014 for, ironically, Yangervis Solarte. Headley was re-acquired from the Yankees this offseason in an unusual salary dump where the Padres took on his $13 million dollar salary for the 2018 season.
The Padres pulled the trigger on the deal as they wanted to get their hands on Bryan Mitchell, a young, right-handed pitcher with a decent ceiling. Mitchell and Headley were acquired for outfielder Jabari Blash, who had no roster spot on the Padres presently.
At the time of the trade, Padres fans were up in arms. Some still might be.
Headley had one great half-year and has done little else with the bat since that epic 2012 season where he hit 19 homer runs in 57 games in August, September, and October. Still, if you look at his numbers compared to Solarte, you might be surprised. From 2014-2017, they recorded an almost identical WAR (Solarte 6.1 and Headley 7.6 according to Baseball Reference), but Headley was better defensively, with a 0.5 WAR compared to Solarte’s -0.2 WAR defensively. Headley is a better defender than Solarte, and if not for a disappointing 2017 with the glove, his defensive metrics would be even better. The Padres seem to be working on improving the defense presently, and though Headley was not their focus in the trade with the Yankees, he is a plus defender and makes the loss of Solarte more bearable.
But will Headley remain with the team as a starter for the 2018 season? Is he assured the position?
Presently, the Padres have Cory Spangenberg and Christian Villanueva also capable of playing the position. Carlos Asuaje is also a possibility, but he is penciled in at second base at the moment. Spangenberg had 96 starts at third in 2017 for the Friars and will certainly be in a spring battle with Headley for playing time. Villanueva had an impressive September, hitting four home runs in 12 games and recording a .344/.344/.750 slash line. The 26-year-old is still young enough to become a decent option for the team, but he needs consistent at bats in order to determine what his ability is at the major league level. The Mexican native is a right-handed hitter with pop. He is a definite sleeper to earn playing time in 2018, but will need a hot spring and a trade to possibly earn playing time.
A trade is still possible, and some think that it is likely with this Padres’ team and the way the roster is presently constructed. There is a definite logjam at second and third base, as the spring season nears. One player, of either Headley, Spangenberg, or Asuaje could certainly be dealt to clear things up. I’m sure the groundwork has been laid for possible moves as the Padres focus on improvement.
Jose Pirela is a lesser-known option at second for the team if needed. He looks to be the left fielder in 2018 after breaking out in late in the 2017 season. Pirela was the most productive player in the second half for the Padres last year. He injured his pinkie on a slide into third in September and was shut down. The journeyman minor leaguer should be given every opportunity to play, but some are wary of him in left field. He did play many games in left this winter while playing ball in the Dominican Republic. Pirela can play the outfield, but might be better suited for second base long term in the league as he gets older. The 28-year-old has a future in baseball, but it is cloudy presently. An Eric Hosmer acquisition would push Wil Myers to left and Pirela would be seemingly out of a job. A.J. Preller has many options in the winter, but the clock is ticking with less than a month before pitchers and catchers report.
Chase Headley could very well be the starting third baseman in 2018, but the team has some options if he falters or is traded. Villanueva could emerge in 2018. Spangenberg could finally put it all together like he showed in spurts in 2017 and/or A.J. Preller could pull off a trade. Anything can happen. Chase Headley isn’t the most appealing of options for a starting third baseman, but it looks like that is who the Padres will have in 2018. A trade is still possible but, no matter how you slice it, 2018 is going to be a grind for Padres fans.