Blue Jays: The decision on Yangervis Solarte’s contract option

The Blue Jays have some decisions to make this offseason, including whether or not to exercise the 5.5 million dollar contract option on Yangervis Solarte.

While the Blue Jays aren’t expected to contend in 2019, that doesn’t mean that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro won’t have their work cut out for them this winter.

The focus is on a bigger picture rebuild, but there are some decisions the front office will have to make in the near future, and it goes beyond choosing the next manager to take over for the departed John Gibbons.

We’ve covered it in the last month or so here at Jays Journal, but one of the realities that Shapiro and Atkins are facing is a potential glut in the infield, especially if everyone is healthy. Without any trades this offseason, the Blue Jays could potentially enter the year with an infield picture that includes: Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, Aledmys Diaz, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Troy Tulowitzki, Brandon Drury, Rowdy Tellez, and eventually Vladimir Guerrero Jr. That’s eight players and only four spots in the infield already, and that’s not even including the likes of Richard Urena, or the eventual arrival of Bo Bichette either.

The one name I didn’t even include was Yangervis Solarte, who spent most of his time in 2018 at second and third base, but also made a few appearances at shortstop and even at first. On paper his versatility, modest power, and smiling face seem to make sense for the Blue Jays roster, especially on an affordable contract option of just 5.5 million. However, for anyone who watched the second half of this past season, it seems like a no-brainer that Solarte would be one of the first to go from the infield group.

My first instinct is to wonder what kind of trade value he could have this winter, but with a closer look at the situation, that’s probably not the question to be asking right now. More realistically, the question is probably, “do the Blue Jays exercise his contract option for 2019?”. By today’s MLB standards, 5.5 million is a relatively cheap contract for a veteran player, but the game is evolving and there is more to consider for the Blue Jays, especially if they ultimately feel they don’t have a spot for him on the roster going forward.

I hadn’t considered that his value had gotten this low, but according to a recent article from Sportnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, his suggestion for the Shapiro and Atkins this winter would be to decline the option. Nicholson-Smith states that he “projects as a near league-average hitter”, but still makes the argument that “there’s likely no trade value here”, and there’s a decent chance he’s right.

If you forget about Solarte’s great start to the 2018 season, the numbers aren’t very flatting at all. After slashing .241/.297/.422 with 16 home runs and 48 RBI in the first half, he battled injuries and fell apart to the tune of .175/.204/.223 in 30 games after the All-Star break. His struggles started before his injuries really became an issue as well, as he hit just .151/.184/.247 in 22 July starts before hitting the disabled list.

Also consider that the Venezuelan was worth -0.8 dWAR according to baseballreference.com, and is now 31 years old. It’s not as if that’s too old for him to be a serviceable infielder, but the downward moving defensive numbers added to his offensive struggles aren’t a very encouraging trend.

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In order for the Blue Jays to pick up his contract option they would have to be confident they could trade him to another team, assuming that’s their ultimate plan. With all due respect to Solarte, moving on makes too much sense for the Blue Jays not to do, although admittedly I’ve been surprised before. They’ll also have to weigh what they think they could get in return, and whether that’s ultimately worth risking the money they’d have to hand over if they can’t work out a trade. The Blue Jays are expected to have plenty of payroll room available, but there’s no point in paying a veteran if you’re not planning on playing him anyway.

If you were to tell me back in June that declining Solarte’s option this offseason would be a legitimate option, I would have thought you were nuts. However, when you consider all of the variables at play for Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, there’s a very real chance that’s exactly what they’ll do when it comes time to make the decision.