Solarte: A Good Problem
Last season when the Padres traded away Chase Headley to the Yankees for some money, a guy, and Yangervis Solarte, most people we’re upset if not downright pissed. I for one was not. Even if Chase went on to do great things as a Yankee, which is the norm for ex-Padres, I didn’t care. I never really bought in to the Chase “thing”, and the fact that he only had one good season, and two almost-average seasons out five and a half, didn’t help any.
With Solarte we were getting a player who could play almost any position on the field, and had a good amount of upside. A super-utility kinda talent who hasn’t peaked yet. And, I liked that. I still do.
When Solarte plays, he plays hard. For the most part he plays smart, and he plays everywhere. He hustles, and works, and plays scrappy. A poor man’s Darin Erstad, and a more useful David Eckstein. During Spring Training, it seemed no one in management could decide if he was a starter at third, second, first, left, or maybe even shortstop. He seemed to be in a position battle everywhere except catcher and pitcher. That’s the kinda dude you want on your squad.
Now, as the season begins, and the Padres are working out the kinks, there seems to be one kink that’s still un…kinked? Sure. Unkinked. While most talking heads are under the impression we need a new shortstop, I maintain we have one right now. Solarte played plenty of games at short for the Yankees last year, and even a few for the Padres in 2014. Didn’t make one error. It’s a small sample size, and I’ll be the first to admit he’s the not the ideal man at short, but who would be? I like Barmes, but his best days are well behind him, and Amarista is interesting, but obviously hasn’t gained the everyday confidence management is looking for. Going out and dealing for Starlin Castro or Javier Baez, might be a bit too ambitious, and if rumors like Jody Mercer are true, then why not stick with Solarte? Is it because we’d lose him as the super-utility guy limiting him to one position? I’ll take that hit. Not too mention you could platoon Amarista at second, lord knows Gyorko is still pressing. We wouldn’t lose any more prospects making a deal that might not work anyway, and, don’t forget – we have Spang!
The problem with Solarte, and it’s a problem every team wants, is that when he’s on the field he contributes. Whether it’s with his glove, his hustle, or his timely hitting. He contributes. The only thing stifling Solarte is Bud Black’s love of tinkering. He sits one guy for two days, then plays him for three, then sits him for one, then plays him for five, then sits him for two. The benefit of a Solarte is that he’ll take the tinkering, and he’ll still be ready. I can’t say that about the other guys.
Take yesterday’s big-win over Bumgarner and the defending World Series Champs. It was Solarte’s second start of the short season, after two games off in a row. Was he rusty? Nope. In fact there’s been a lot of talk already about the ever-changing lineups, and how Derek Norris should be hitting fifth, making someone like Solarte an ideal bat in the two-hole. They tried that yesterday, and guess what? It worked. Solarte went 3 for 4 with an RBI, and Norris 2 for 5 with an RBI. However, I’m sure Norris will get a day off tomorrow, so things will change up once again, and I’m sure Solarte will be the odd man out. Seems to be the story of his young career. But, the other side of that story is that he deserves to play regularly. I just hope he gets that chance. Every team wishes they had someone like a Ben Zobrist. Most teams either never get that chance, or overlook the scrappy talent. Teams wind up ruining promising careers, because that one particular square peg never fit in the round hole. Well, maybe its time we shave the sides of our hole, and make some room for a square peg that may just be an answer to a lot of our questions.
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I’d love to see Black consistently put Solarte at 2nd and Amarista at short. Amarista will be serviceable with the bat if he doesn’t have pressure to produce. Solarte will hit.