Monday, December 5, 2016

Yangervis Solarte: Possible Braves Target?

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as
"San Diego Padres") [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the San Diego Padres "continues to aggressively shop third baseman Yangervis Solarte." If so, you have to imagine that Braves general manager John Coppolella has reached out. And if he hasn't, Coppy, you better get on it.

A three-year veteran, Solarte was a bit of a late bloomer in a sense, but it's also surprising that nobody seemed to understand what they had with him. The Twins let him leave via minor league free agency after 2011 despite hitting .329/.367/.466 at Double-A. They were using him at second-base and in left-field. He caught on with the Rangers and over the next years, excelled at Triple-A, hitting .290/.340/.419. But again, the Rangers said "see ya" after believing Solarte was just a nice Triple-A utility guy. Just 26 years-old, Solarte landed with the Yankees organization and finally, someone thought to give Solarte a shot in the show.

He was brought to the majors in 2014 and hit .254/.337/.381 over 75 games for the Yankees, often at third base. He was part of the July 22, 2014 deal that sent Chase Headley to the Bronx with Solarte replacing him in San Diego. Since that point, he has slashed .275/.330/.428 over 317 games while playing half of his games in a stadium that isn't too fun to play in for hitters. Along the way, he's belted 33 homers and played five positions.

His primary position since coming to the majors has been  third base. The one thing I can say is that he won't win a Gold Glove, nor will he be a glaring defensive weakness. He has a -0.9 UZR/150 in nearly 2400 innings at third base with -7 DRS. He'll make most plays (96.3% of routine plays according to Inside Edge Fielding), but won't make the Web Gems.

Solarte has a bit of flexibility as he has played 390.2 innings at second base (-2.5 UZR/150), 237 innings at first base (-8.3 UZR/150), and a statistically insignificant amount of innings at shortstop and in left field, though he hasn't played the latter two since 2014.

A switch-hitter, Solarte makes his money at the plate. He has increased his ISO from .109 to .158 to .180 since arriving in the majors and while he won't walk much, he does a good job at reaching base enough (.332 OBP in the majors) to excuse that. He doesn't strike out a lot and his wOBA has increased each season from .317 to .324 to .346 last season. Solarte is a bit swing-happy, but has a significantly higher-than-average contact rate and with a career average of about 30% hard-hit rate, that's plenty acceptable.

There does exist some degree of difference between right-side and left-side, as we see in nearly all switch-hitters. When hitting righties, Solarte has a .331 wOBA and 111 wRC+. It's .320 and 104 respectably against lefties. That's not significant, but if the Braves want to find some additional playing time for Sean Rodriguez, they can get him some at-bats against southpaws at third base.

Contract-wise, Solarte is arbitration-eligible for the first time. MLB Trade Rumors suggests he'll earn around $2.7 million in 2017. The Braves would retain control on Solarte through the 2019 season.

The big question remaining is how much Solarte would cost. Even though I am praising him, he is a 29 year-old third baseman who just had his first season of a 2 fWAR or higher. The Padres are trying to trade him, which only works in Atlanta's favor as a team desperately trying to get rid of a player tends to lead to deals advantageous to the team acquiring the player (think Kevin Millwood/Johnny Estrada). The Braves will have to give up a prospect or two here - maybe Rio Ruiz and Akeel Morris or Anfernee Seymour.

The other big question might be is Solarte + whatever he costs in a trade so much better than going with incumbent Adonis Garcia? I believe the answer there is an affirmative. While Garcia did exceed expectations after returning from Gwinnett, Solarte is simply better and I can't imagine Solarte costing the Braves top prospects. If he does, the Braves will likely pass.

Also working in Atlanta's favor is the relationship Coppy and Padres general manager A.J. Preller have had. Since Frank Wren's ousting and Coppy's promotion to John Hart's right-hand man and then General Manager, the Braves and Padres have finalized four trades from the blockbuster (Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel) to the bland (Christian Bethancourt) to the "do me this favor, will ya?" (Hector Olivera/Matt Kemp). Both are outside-the-box thinkers and both could find a way to make this trade work.

Obviously, Solarte is not a home-run acquisition. But in this week's winter meetings, he could be a nice addition to an offseason where the Braves are seeking incremental improvements while avoiding long-term commitments.

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