By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
TORONTO - In what will go down as their first move of 2018, the Toronto Blue Jays have acquired switch-hitting utility infielder Yangervis Solarte from the San Diego Padres in exchange for a pair of prospects in outfielder Edward Olivares and right-hander Jared Carkuff.
Solarte, 30, appeared in 128 games with the 71-91 Padres in 2017, batting .255 with a career-high 18 home runs across 512 plate appearances. Through 520 major league contests dating back to his rookie campaign with the New York Yankees in 2014, Solarte has slashed .267/.327/.419 with 162 extra-base hits.
Having drawn only 154 free passes over 2,061 big league plate appearances, Solarte doesn't walk often, but he also doesn't strike out a lot, as evidenced by a career K% of 8.66.
"(Solarte's) an interesting, versatile player that has a nice offensive track record," said Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins via phone conference on Saturday. "(He has) a great reputation in the clubhouse. One that we thought would complement us well."
Although the bulk of his playing time has come at third base, Solarte has also appeared at first, second, shortstop and left field in the past. His overall defensive versatility makes him a valuable addition to what has quickly become a deep infield behind oft-injured starters Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis.
"What we're looking for and what we will continue to look for are options," added Atkins. "Versatile options. Guys who can do multiple things. Guys that can typically play in the middle of the diamond."
Due to earn $4,125,000 in 2018, Solarte's current deal comes with a pair of club options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Those options check in at $5.5M and $8M, respectively.
Olivares, 21, slashed .269/.327/.468 between low-A Lansing and high-A Dunedin in 2017. He became the first Mid-West League player to hit for the cycle since 2014, going 4-for-5 in an 11-5 Lugnuts' win over the South Bend Cubs last April.
Carkuff, 24, pitched to an ERA of 3.86 through 34 relief appearances for Vancouver, Lansing, Dunedin and Buffalo in 2017. The former 35th-round draft pick has appeared in 52 games since signing with the Blue Jays, posting a K/9 of 8.8 alongside a WHIP of 1.126 through 89 2/3 innings.
In addition to the acquisition of Solarte, the Blue Jays GM also addressed the medical statuses of a trio of core contributors who had fallen victim to season-ending injuries during the 2017 campaign.
First, it was Devon Travis, the hot-hitting second baseman who was initially placed on the 10-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his right knee on June 6. Although progress was made, it was swiftly followed by a string of setbacks that the 26-year-old infielder would not be able to recover from in 2017.
Then it was Aaron Sanchez, the reigning American League ERA leader. Blister problems on his right middle finger limited the 25-year-old hurler to only eight appearances in 2017, the last of which came on July 19.
"(Sanchez) has been great," said Atkins. "He's had zero setbacks, 100% strength. (we are) very optimistic. (Strength and conditioning coach) Nikki Huffman is extremely excited about his progress."
Finally, on July 28, the Blue Jays lost Troy Tulowitzki after Toronto's shortstop sprained his ankle while attempting to beat out a ground ball in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Rogers Centre. Like Travis, he would not return from the DL.
"(Travis and Tulowitzki are) both doing well. (Travis) has really progressed as well as we possibly could of expected," explained Atkins. "(Tulowitzki), his ankle has been really responding well to everything."
The Blue Jays expect both of their middle infielders to be ready when spring training gets underway next month.
"Both have just hit every mark that we've asked them to hit. We're expecting them to be full go and ready at the beginning of spring training," said Atkins.
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