With spring training nearing its finals days, the time has come for the San Diego Padres to finalize their roster and set their sights on the regular season. While certain players are still fighting for a chance to make the big league club, it would appear management has a firm, mental grasp on what the team will look like come April fourth. Actually, General Manager A.J. Preller would seemingly have a plan for the future as well. Almost every position has a viable option for next year and beyond. Except for one: Third Base.
Yangervis Solarte figures to be the everyday third baseman for the Padres in 2016. He was acquired in 2014 from the New York Yankees in a trade that involved Chase Headley. The switch-hitting Headley was the one of the highest paid players in Padres history at the time; making over $8.5 million in 2013 and over $10 million in 2014. His value was climbing higher, so the organization thought it would be best to trade him.
As expensive as he was, he never quite lived up to the money he was making. Headley had a breakout year in 2012 where he hit .286 with 31 home runs, but has not gotten very close to those kind of statistics since. Those numbers were virtually all accumulated in the second half of that season when Headley was on fire.
Solarte, on the other hand, is owed a little over $500,000 dollars this year which is an absolute bargain for the production he brought to the Padres in 2015. He hit .270 with 14 home runs in 526 at bats. The 28-year-old split time with Will Middlebrooks to start off 2015 and would flip-flop mainly between second and third base throughout the course of the season. For 2016, however, it would appear that Solarte is the go-to guy for the Padres at third. So what would be the plan after that?
This will be the final year in Solarte’s contract. He is in line for a significant pay raise come 2017, but it will depend on what role he will be assigned to. Though, he did see much success in 2015, it’s likely his level of play will regress this year. Solarte has an average to below average glove, very below average speed, and a bat that seemingly preformed at an unsustainable level last year, given his career statistics.
Given all that, many agree that Solarte profiles best as a very good/high contact bench piece. With the ability to switch hit as well as he does, he has great value as a pinch hitter as well as someone who can start when needed. He could be a serviceable utility player; the type that championship teams have on their bench.
If he is determined to play everyday, he could certainly get himself decent a contract. Many teams would love his bat, however, those same teams would more than likely not be contending for a championship. With Solarte approaching 29 years of age, it is unlikely a top-tier team will trust him at third base to contribute like he did last year. What is likely, however, is that a good team will sign him on a cheap, brief contract to pinch hit and platoon and there.
This could possibly spell the end for Solarte as a Padre. Preller seems to be bringing in as much young talent as possible and unless Solarte is willing to stay here on an inexpensive contract, it would appear his Padre days are numbered. With that said, San Diego could very well be a competitive team in 2017 or 2018. So having him around in a few years may be exactly what they need if they wish to truly be competitive.
It all depends on how this season goes for him. If it’s apparent that he is unable to be the same player he was last year, it would be wise to let him go and start fresh in that position. If he has another productive year, however, he could be a valuable asset that would be worth investing in.