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Blue Jays: Are the new infielders better than Barney and Goins?

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 22: Yangervis Solarte
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 22: Yangervis Solarte /
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The Blue Jays have started their offseason by acquiring infielders Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte. Does the new infield duo provide an upgrade over Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins?

It wasn’t Lorenzo Cain, Jake Arrieta, or J.D. Martinez, but the Blue Jays finally made a move by acquiring Yangervis Solarte from the San Diego Padres. Along with Aledmys Diaz, Solarte shores up the infield depth for the Jays in case Troy Tulowitzki or Devon Travis (or…both) miss extended time with yet another injury. Some fans have expressed their dismay at seeing replacements for fan favourites Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins, but should they actually be praising the front office?

Awful 2017 for Barney and Goins

While Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins were fan favourites, both players had a 2017 season to forget. In 129 games, Barney sported a .232/.275/.327 batting line (-0.7 bWAR) while his double play partner, Goins, batted .237/.286/.356 (-0.2 bWAR). Sure, both players are great defenders and Ryan Goins was unstoppable with runners in scoring position, but the fact that the Jays were playing Barney and Goins everyday for a good portion of the season attributes to their lack of preparation for possible (probable?) injuries to the infield.

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In all fairness, it’s hard to blame Goins and Barney for the Blue Jays’ struggles in 2017. Their jobs weren’t to be above-average, everyday regulars, but rather just solid bench players. However, due to the unique nature of the Blue Jays current infield and the combined -0.9 bWAR of Barney and Goins, it’s easier to fathom the front office’s interest in bringing in better insurance options for a Tulowitzki or Travis injury.

How good are the newcomers?

Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte are two very different infielders. The former is a young, high-upside talent coming off a sophomore season slump, while the latter is a dependable veteran. In 2017, Diaz batted .259/.290/.392 (-0.7 bWAR) in just 79 games – perhaps just as bad as Darwin Barney. However, just one year before, Diaz flashed his potential by hitting 17 home runs to go along with a .300/.369/.510 batting line. Diaz’s 2018 projections are encouraging as Baseball Reference suggests a .274/.332/.450 batting line and 13 home runs in 358 at bats. It’s also important to note that Diaz could start the year in Triple-A for regular at bats.

Meanwhile, Solarte continued to be a consistent producer in 2017. With a career-high 18 home runs and a .255/.314/.416 line (1.3 bWAR) in one of most pitcher-friendly parks in the NL, Solarte alone was more valuable than Barney and Goins put together. Furthermore, Baseball Reference suggests an improvement for the switch hitter as they project him to bat .264/.323/.436 with 17 home runs in 2018. Not only that, but Solarte seems like a player who can quickly become a valuable clubhouse presence and a new fan favourite.

Better Insurance = More Wins

In a perfect world, Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis stay healthy for the full year in 2018 and perform to the levels they are capable of. Solarte become the utility player for the Jays much like Marwin Gonzalez for the Astros or Ben Zobrist for the Cubs, and Diaz has time to develop further in the minor leagues.

But sadly, this is not the likeliest scenario as Tulowitzki and Travis cannot be counted on to play the whole season at a high level. Fortunately, the front office has prepared the Jays much better going in to 2018 as Solarte and Diaz replace Barney and Goins. It’s a good start to the offseason and with a reported $20 million in payroll space to work with, the acquisitions that provide stability and versatility could be the perfect compliment to a future impact addition.

Next: Jays are set up to spend, if they choose

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