Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays saw a lot of Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins. Far too much in fact.
The duo played in 272 games and made 821 trips to the plate that resulted in an ugly .235/.281/.344 line and -0.9 Wins Above Replacement.
That’s why going into this offseason, shoring up the team’s middle infield was a top priority. Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki can theoretically be a strong pair at second and short, but their propensity for making trips to the sick bay means quality depth is an absolute must behind them. Last year, the Blue Jays didn’t have that. It looks like in 2018 they will.
On Saturday they made their second trade of the offseason to that affect, acquiring switch-hitting utility man Yangervis Solarte from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Edward Olivares and Jared Carkuff, as first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan.
Solarte hit .255/.314/.416 in 512 plate appearances with the Padres in 2017, good for 1.1 WAR. Perhaps more importantly for the Blue Jays’ purposes, the 30-year-old played second base, shortstop, third base and even a little left field.
It’s hard to know exactly how Toronto will deploy the utility man at this point. His best position is likely third base, but he can hold his own across the infield and that’s not something the team needs to decide right now. While Solarte isn’t a plus defender at any individual position, he’s not a black hole at any of them, either.
The Venezualan veteran is not enough of a difference maker to demand a starting spot, but he’s good enough to hold one down for an extended period of time. When you’re looking for depth behind an injury prone starter, that’s the perfect profile.
Another appealing aspect about Solarte is his contract. This season he figures to bring in a modest $4.125 million salary, which will increase to $5.5 million in 2019. The team also holds an $8 million contract for 2020, that while significantly higher, could still be more than reasonable if Solarte remains productive into his early 30’s.
Overall, the Blue Jays are adding cheap versatility with a touch of team control. That covers off almost enough Mark Shapiro/Ross Atkins buzzwords to get Bingo, which in this case isn’t a bad thing by any means.
Heading to San Diego in the deal is 21-year-old outfield Edward Olivares, the Blue Jays’ 18th-best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and little-known relief prospect Jared Carkuff. Olivares brings power and speed to the table, and hit .277/.330/.500 with 17 home runs and 18 steals last season at Single-A Lansing. He was promoted to High-A Dunedin later in the year but struggled with a .221/.312/.265 line in 77 trips to the dish. Olivares is the prize in the deal for the Padres, but is still far more lottery ticket than blue chip prospect.
Carkuff, on the other hand, pitched primarily at Single-A where he struggled to miss bats and keep runs off the board. He was also old for his level at 24. The right-hander looks like more of a throw-in than anything else.
Earlier this offseason the Blue Jays made a very similar deal, bringing on board St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz in exchange for outfield prospect J.B. Woodman. Once again, the team added a player capable of holding down a middle-infield spot without necessarily opening the season as a starter. If there’s ever a time when everyone in the Blue Jays infield is healthy – which is far from a given to be fair – the club will have a very solid bench.
In the midst of an extraordinarily uneventful offseason, it’s likely hard for Blue Jays fans to get excited about relatively minor deals like Solarte and Diaz. However, these are the type of acquisitions a well-run organization makes along the fringes of the roster.
Of course, those clubs also make bigger moves to improve as well. Those are yet to come for the Blue Jays this winter – if they come at all.
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