Yangervis Solarte had a key home run on Saturday, and is already proving his worth to the Blue Jays at this early stage of the season.
The biggest need the Blue Jays had to address this offseason was their middle infield depth behind starters Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki. If you didn’t know why that was important, Tulowitzki has already proven that significance by starting the year on the 60 day disabled list, despite being expected to return in time for the start of the regular season.
It’s been a common theme for the Blue Jays’ keystone over the last couple of seasons, and for as beloved as Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney were by a good chunk of the fan base, their limited offensive abilities made them less than ideal candidates to play every day when the starters were unable to stay on the field. As a result, Ross Atkins and company went out and brought in a few different upgrades, who are already making a difference in the lineup at this early stage of the season.
They traded for Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals after a down year, picked Gift Ngoepe from the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft, and signed Danny Espinosa to a minor league deal, who has since accepted an assignment to Triple-A Buffalo. Arguably the best addition to the depth chart came from the San Diego Padres, who came to the Blue Jays in a trade in exchange for prospects Edward Olivares and Jared Carkuff.
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Solarte has the ability to play all over the diamond, which is a key feature of his value to the Blue Jays roster. His main responsibility was and is assumed to be as depth for Tulowitzki and Travis, but his experience playing at third base, first base, and in the corner outfield give him even more value to the veteran roster. As we’ve seen already in this young season, he’s been called upon to play defence for Josh Donaldson, who has been dealing with a “dead arm”, and has been relegated to DH duties in the season’s first week.
Solarte provides valuable depth around the diamond, but it’s his ability to contribute to the level of a starter on offence as well that really pushes the needle in his favour. He was a key piece of the San Diego Padres roster last year, frequently hitting in an important spot in their lineup, and contributing a slash line of .255/.314/.416 in 416 at bats, and adding 18 home runs and 64 RBI as well. His ability to hit from both sides of the plate is also a plus, as the Blue Jays have been pretty right-handed heavy for a number of years now.
He showed Blue Jays fans some of what he could do during Saturday’s game, as he went 1-4 for the second straight day, and contributed a big home run in the eighth inning to break a tie against his former team in the New York Yankees. He was also caught dancing in front of the dugout in celebration, bringing the kind of positive energy to his new team that will be embraced with open arms.
In an ideal world he would likely be relegated to depth duties, but don’t be surprised if Solarte becomes a steady presence in the lineup for the Blue Jays this season. While it’s not ideal to have one middle infielder on the 60 day DL, another relegated to playing two out of every three games, and a third struggling with early injury issues, but at least the Jays are far better equipped to handle the situation this season.