The Toronto Blue Jays have been rather quiet this off-season but the team made a trade Saturday afternoon, acquiring infielder Yangervis Solarte from the San Diego Padres in exchange for outfield prospect Edward Olivares and minor league right-hander Jared Carkuff.
Outside of third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have lacked some stability in the infield mostly due to Devon Travis’s and Troy Tulowitzki’s frequent injury woes. The addition of Solarte helps the Blue Jays in this area and adding infield depth has been a goal of the front office this winter.
Here are a few things to know about the Blue Jays’ newest player.
Name: Yangervis Solarte
Height: Five-foot-11 | Weight: 205 pounds
Contract status: Will make $4.125 million in 2018 with club options for 2019 ($5.5 million) and 2020 ($8 million).
He has been on the Blue Jays’ radar for a while
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told reporters on a conference call Saturday that the team has been keen on the idea of adding Solarte dating back to last year.
“We’ve been talking about Solarte for a long time, internally,” Atkins said. “We see him playing on a very regular basis, whether that be spelling second base, spelling at shortstop from time to time, at third. He can play first, he’s been in the outfield before.”
— Azulejos de Toronto (@losazulejos) January 7, 2018
Atkins expects the team to have Travis and Tulowitzki back by the beginning of spring training, with the GM adding Tulowitzki’s ankle is responding well to treatment and Travis “has progressed as well as we possibly could’ve expected” after the second baseman had his 2017 campaign cut short with a right knee injury.
With an ability to play multiple positions and hit from both sides of the pate, Solarte’s adaptability and bat are his main strengths, in addition to his personality—he was a fan favourite in San Diego.
“He’s an interesting, versatile player that has a nice offensive track record and a great reputation in the clubhouse,” Atkins said.
Solarte has recorded at least 63 RBI in each of the past three seasons and his home run totals have increased year-over-year during that time, going yard 14 times in 2015, 15 times in 2016 and 18 times this past season, many of which were long bombs.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) August 9, 2017
Solarte slashed .255/.314/.416 in 2017 and his .255 batting average would’ve ranked fifth on the Blue Jays behind countryman Ezequiel Carrera, Justin Smoak, Josh Donaldson and Kevin Pillar.
He was proud to represent his country at the WBC
Solarte didn’t get much playing time when he donned his Venezuela uniform at the 2017 World Baseball Classic but the Valencia native wore his colours proudly and enjoyed the experience. Although he was seldom used, Solarte went 3-for-6 in the Classic and started one game in left field.
“Wow. Venezuela selected me and put me on the national roster,” he said at the time. “It’s very big for a Venezuelan. Wow.”
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 18, 2017
His uncle is a former major leaguer
Solarte, who made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2014, is the nephew of Roger Cedeño. The former MLB outfielder played 11 seasons from 1995-2005 split between the Dodgers, Mets, Astros, Tigers and Cardinals.
As you would expect, Cedeño had a significant impact on Solarte.
“When I was in the minors, [making it in the MLB] was my dream,” Solarte told Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union Tribune in 2015. “I saw my uncle in the majors all the time. I never forgot my dream. …
“He gave me so much information. I talked to him all the time and he said, ‘Hey baseball is hard, especially in New York. If they give you an opportunity, play hard. If something happens, whatever you need, let me know.’”
He is a proud father who has dealt with tragedy at a young age
Solarte’s wife, Yuliett Pimentel Solarte, lost her battle with cancer in September 2016 at age 31. The couple had three daughters together. Believe it or not, Solarte only missed eight games following the tragic loss.
“Everything was for her,” Solarte told Sam Gardner of FOX Sports this past June. “She always told me that whether she dies or doesn’t die, I can’t stop playing. Because all the goals I set for myself, they were for our daughters, and I had to be able to assure their future. So no matter what happens, (she said) I need to continue to play.”
Due to his perseverance, he was named the Tony Conigliaro Award recipient in 2016 as the MLB player who best “overcomes an obstacle and adversity through the attributes of spirit, determination, and courage.”