When the Yankees announced that they had signed Yangervis Solarte to a MiL deal and extended him an invitation to spring camp, I’m sure a lot of us had the same reaction. “Who??” We quickly found out who when Solarte impressed in ST and earned himself a spot on the Opening Day roster, then watched in various levels of amazement as he proceeded to be the team’s best hitter through the first 2 months. At one point in mid-May he was leading the AL in batting average and he finished the month with a .299/.369/.466 slash line.
Whether it was opposing pitchers figuring him out and adjusting to him, him changing his approach in a way that negatively impacted his effectiveness, a natural regression back to his true talent level, or a combination of all 3, Solarte’s production fell off big time in June. He was slowly being phased out of the everyday lineup before being included as part of the trade package for Chase Headley yesterday. His star began to fall almost as quickly as rose, and his Yankee career is now over after 3+ months
In a season where we’ve seen a lot of bummerific injuries, subpar performances from veterans, and generally mediocre play from the Yanks, Solarte was a breath of fresh air and a fun story to follow. It’s the type of story that Disney movies are made from. Career Minor Leaguer, 7 years in without a single call up, gets a non-guaranteed camp invite from the Yankees, improbably makes the team, then plays like an All Star. He was critically important to the team’s success in those first few months, to the point that I was calling for him to bat 2nd, and he seemed like a fun guy to be around.
I remember during the Yankees-Brewers series in May, there was a play in the Sunday game where the Yankees pitched out with a runner on first. The runner didn’t go, the throw wasn’t made, and as Solarte went from moving towards second base to receive the throw back to his pre-pitch spot, he took a long, winding jog around second base, into shallow center field, and back around to where he started. As he passed by the second base umpire, the ump said something to him, he said something back, and they both laughed. Even from my seat in the upper deck, I could tell Solarte was having a blast just being out there playing Major League baseball.
From a business and baseball standpoint, Solarte was a huge win for the Yankees. They signed him for the MLB equivalent of nothing, got 75 games and 289 plate appearances of net positive WAR production from him at positions of weakness, then turned him into a better and more proven offensive and defensive player. From a personal and emotional standpoint, it’s a little sad to see him go so quickly. The Solarte Era was fun while it lasted and I hope he gets the chance to play regularly in San Diego and get back to a level of success close to what he had in his first 2 months in pinstripes.