Blue Jays must determine fates of Solarte, Travis by Friday evening

MLB insider Shi Davidi wasn’t that surprised that the Blue Jays traded Aledmys Diaz, because was the guy with the best industry market, also gives us a quick bio on the pitcher they got in return, Trent Thornton.

TORONTO – The next off-season deadline for the Toronto Blue Jays arrives Friday at 8 p.m. ET, when they must decide to which of their 10 arbitration-eligible players they will tender a contract.

By and large it’s an easy exercise as within the group are obvious tenders like Marcus Stroman (projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $7.2 million), Aaron Sanchez ($3.8 million), Ken Giles ($6.6 million), Ryan Tepera ($1.7 million), Randal Grichuk ($4.8 million) and Brandon Drury ($1.4 million). There might be some debate about Kevin Pillar ($5.3 million) and Joe Biagini ($1 million), but the expectation is both will be tendered, as well, leaving two real calls for the Blue Jays to make: Yangervis Solarte ($5.9 million) and Devon Travis ($2.4 million).

Players who are non-tendered become free agents.


Let’s start with Solarte, because there’s more clarity in his case given that already this off-season the Blue Jays have declined the $5.5 million club option they had on him for 2019, so they clearly aren’t going to risk paying him more, based on the MLBTR projection. While not foolproof, the numbers do offer a rough outline of where a player’s figure is likely to land.

Finances aside Solarte – a versatile but below-average defender and baserunner who posted an OPS-plus of 80 this past season – appears to be a redundancy on the roster, even after the trade of Aledmys Diaz to the Houston Astros for triple-A righty Trent Thornton.

For now Lourdes Gurriel Jr., appears set to open the season at shortstop, with Brandon Drury manning third until Vladimir Guerrero Jr., arrives in late April once his service time has been manipulated enough to push back his free agency.

At that point, Drury is likely to switch over to second, which could be manned by Richard Urena, who is also a candidate to play shortstop. If he recovers enough from surgery to both his heels, Troy Tulowitzki is another factor in the mix, while top prospects Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio won’t be ready out of spring training but can quickly push themselves into the mix.

All of that makes it hard to see how Solarte stays on the roster unless he agrees to a dramatic pay cut, the way Justin Smoak did in December 2014 after the Blue Jays claimed him on waivers from the Seattle Mariners, non-tendered him and re-signed him for $1 million.

Similarly, Travis also finds himself in a difficult spot in the crowded middle infield mix. The 27-year-old appeared in a career-best 103 games last season but his OPS-plus of 80 was the lowest of his career, down dramatically from the 131 he posted in his spectacular 62-game debut in 2015 (league average OPS-plus is 100).

Still, 2018 was his first wire-to-wire campaign without a major injury since he broke through, and as a contact hitter adept at spraying the ball around the field, he has the potential to be a solid contributor, especially after learning to get through a season on his troublesome knee.

The question for the Blue Jays now is whether the projected $2.4 million hit is worth the upside play for someone not guaranteed an everyday spot in the lineup, especially once Guerrero Jr. arrives.

Travis does have two options remaining, so he could be parked at Buffalo if needed, but that’s a big ticket for triple-A and would eat into playing time for Biggio, Bichette or perhaps shortstop Santiago Espinal, who may start at double-A before quickly moving up.

Whatever the Blue Jays decide in both cases will go a long way in revealing their infield plans for next season, and how, at least initially, things are likely to set up.

General manager Ross Atkins said this week that he doesn’t “think we’ll have decisions that go down to the wire on that front,” meaning the Blue Jays already have their minds made up, and are likely waiting out the clock in case a trade opportunity suddenly develops.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.