A trade for Todd Frazier seemed like the inevitable solution to the Red Sox’s third base problem, as my colleague Bryan Joiner so astutely pointed out. However, as we learned on Friday, you shouldn’t assume a trade is a sure thing until you see the player you’re trading for in your own uniform. Failed physicals, stubborn GMs and the stupid Yankees can nerf a deal that seemed like it was a definite thing.
The only thing we do know for sure is that the Red Sox desperately need to upgrade the third base position, as well as the offense in general. Frazier obviously does both of those things well, especially with his ability to hit for power, something the team has been missing. Despite not managing to get a deal done for the White Sox third baseman, there are other options out there. The best besides Frazier is Yangervis Solarte.
Currently playing for the San Diego Padres, Solarte is slashing .268/.329/.425 this season and is a career .271/.334/.420 hitter. The bulk of his career has been played in cavernous Petco Park and yet he has still managed to be an above average player, accumulating roughly 7.0 WAR in four MLB seasons, including back-to-back 2.2-win seasons in 2015 and 2016.
Some will argue that Josh Harrison of the Pirates is a better fit, but I don’t see it that way. Although Harrison is a two-time All-Star, he has produced a wRC+ at or below 100 in five of his seven seasons. His current reading of 107 would make for the third-best mark of his career, but he has been ice cold in July, slashing .130/.200/.196 in 50 plate appearances.
On the other hand, Solarte has been a consistent bat for the San Diego Padres, managing to post a wRC+ above 100 in each of his four seasons, including a mark of 106 so far this season. Solarte is also more of a power threat than Harrison, even if they both have 10 home runs this season. Solarte has reached double digit home runs in four-straight campaigns, including a career-high of 15 a year ago. Harrison’s career-high is 13 (2014) and he has only gotten to double digits twice. In addition, Solarte’s .157 isolated power this season and .149 career mark outpace Harrison’s readings of .150 and .130, respectively. Now, Solarte is obviously not the type of power threat that Fraizer is, but for a team that ranks 26th in the majors in dingers, the Red Sox need to have a contingency plan with a bit more pop.
Some other benefits that can be drawn out of Solarte’s services is his more patient approach, as he walks at a higher rate and strikes out less than Harrison. His switch-hitting would also give the lineup some flexibility, and his ability to play other infield spots means he could spell Dustin Pedroia and Mitch Moreland. Additionally, Solarte is only owed $4 million next season and has team options in 2019 and 2020, meaning he could fit in for a while, giving top prospect Rafael Devers plenty of time to get seasoning before taking over as the third baseman of the future.
The bad news with respect to Solarte is that he has missed some time of late with an oblique strain and remains on the disabled list. That is obviously something to keep an eye on, and if he can’t get healthy he wouldn’t help the Red Sox this year. That being said, the hope is still that he’ll be back before the end of the month.
If the Red Sox are planning on giving Devers more time and not making him the starter at the hot corner next season, there’s an argument to be made that Solarte makes more sense than Frazier, as the latter would be a free agent after this season while Solarte would be an inexpensive stopgap until Devers arrives.
Trading for Solarte would not be the type of splash that some trade deadline deals will be. It’s not even the flashiest deal the Red Sox could make. However, it’s the kind of deal that could pay dividends this year while allowing the team to maintain focus on the future.