January 7, 2018
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
I woke up this morning in New Delhi to read that the Blue Jays had made a trade, sending minor leaguers Edward Olivares and Jared Carkuff to the Padres in exchange for big league infielder/utility man Yangervis Solarte.
Solarte, 30, was signed by the Twins out of Venezuela and made his major league debut in 2014 with the New York Yankees before being traded to San Diego in a three-player deal that sent Chase Headley back to to New York before the 2014 trade deadline.
Since coming to the majors, Solarte has been a solid big league player, putting up offensive numbers around the major league average (although 2017 was his first year with a wRC+ that was below average). He has a career .267/.327/.419 slash line with 57 major league home runs in 520 games. Last year, that line was lower than usual, as he hit .255/.314/.416, but his BABIP was also a career-low .258.
Solarte ranked 342nd in the majors in average exit velocity at 85.5 mph in 2017 and that was down from 2016 when he was 235th with an average exit velocity of 88.1 mph.This leads to a question of whether exit velocity falls as players leave their peak (which Solarte, at age 30, has already done).
Solarte is under team control for as many as three more years as he’s set to earn $4.125 million in 2018 with team options for $5.5 million in 2019 and $8 million in 2020 with each year coming with a $750,000 buyout.
Solarte spent most of his season in 2017 playing second base (79 games) but has also played significant numbers of games at third, short and first with a handful of games in left field.
A nice possibility about Solarte is that he could increase his offensive production in Toronto. With so many games in the AL East’s bandboxes and coming from a much tougher division on hitters in the NL West, Solarte, a switch hitter, could conceivably improve on his career-high of 18 home runs (set last year) with Toronto if he gets enough playing time.
Going back to San Diego are a couple of interesting prospects. Outfielder Edward Olivares is the bigger name of the pair, ranking as the Blue Jays’ 18th overall prospect at the end of the season. Coming to the forefront last year with a breakout year, Olivares played 101 games with Low-A Lansing hitting .277/.330/.500 with 17 home runs and 18 stolen bases and putting up a wRC+ of 130 (producing runs at a rate 30% above the Midwest League average).
In a brief promotion to class-A Advanced Dunedin, Olivares, 21, struggled, hitting just .221/.312/.265. The main knock against him is his plate approach with lacks discipline right now as he walked in only 4.7% of his plate appearances with Lansing (that rose to 10.4% in his small sample size in Dunedin) while striking out in 17.7% of his plate appearances with Lansing. Defensively, Olivares led Lansing with 14 outfield assists, split equally between right and center field and he gets raves for his arm as well as his defence overall.
I picked Olivares as one of my minor leaguers to watch in 2017 and he delivered on that. He shows a rare combination of tools in the Blue Jays system, showing speed, power, an ability to hit for average as well as defensive skills and arm strength but there are still questions about his approach at the plate and how well that’s going to translate as he moves up in level.
Carkuff, a 24-year-old righty from Austin Peay State University, has pitched at five levels over the course of two seasons with the Blue Jays since being drafted in the 35th round of the 2016 draft. Carkuff started in Dunedin last year, biding his time there with a 5.14 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over 21 innings with six walks and 15 strikeouts before going to class-A Short-Season Vancouver when they started their season. After just three innings over two games in Vancouver (in which he struck out three without walking anyone, giving up two hits and no runs), he was moving up to Lansing where he made 21 appearances and threw 35 2/3 innings with stronger results. He had a 3.79 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with a solid 21.2% strikeout rate and 5.3% walk rate before moving up to triple-A Buffalo for one game in which he threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing a hit, a walk and a strikeout as the season closed in September.
Scouting reports on Carkuff had him in the low 90s (peaking at 94 mph) with his fastball in college with an above-average slider and, according to Brian Crawford at Jaysprospects.com, features a four-pitch mix with a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider and a changeup.
Overall, it looks like the Blue Jays are getting a potentially solid and versatile infield defender with at least an average bat. Adding Solarte to Aledmys Diaz is going to give the Blue Jays even more depth in the infield should anything happen to their injury-prone regulars. The cost of a couple of minor leaguers, is fairly low while both have a solid shot at becoming major league players, Carkuff could help this year or next in the Padres’ bullpen (especially since almost every pitcher benefits from that stadium) while Olivares has some very good upside as a well-rounded prospect who just needs to learn adjust as the competition gets tougher.
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The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Check out the Handbook page for more information!