After Chargers extend middle finger, Padres extend middle of order

Just one day after Dean Spanos relocated a franchise he didn’t earn, Padres ownership breathed some fresh air into San Diego’s downtrodden sports fans, spending some of their actually earned money by agreeing to a pair of (favorable) contract extensions with both Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte.

The terms aren’t completely final, but the basics are widely known:

  • The Padres will purchase six seasons – three arb and three extended – of Wil Myers for roughly $83 million. There also exists a seventh option year, but the terms aren’t yet public knowledge.
  • The Padres will purchase two seasons – both arb – of Yangervis Solarte for under $10 million, and retain two team-controlled options for 2019 and 2020.

Taken together, the extensions compliment one another quite well, tying a moderately risky, high-upside bargain with a low-risk layup.

Myers’ extension is a rare team-friendly deal, emphasized by ZIPS creator Dan Szymborski’s evaluation that it surmounts to a contractual surplus of $11 million. But the extension isn’t without its risks: Wil is usefully confined to first base and experienced wrist problems in the recent past. Some have even questioned his ability to play consistently throughout a full season. That said, those risks are counteracted by locking up a pre-prime, high ceiling offensive piece through his age 31 season. In other words, the Padres will obtain all of Wil Myers’ best seasons in exchange for absorbing a moderate amount of risk and some lineup flexibility going forward. Given my expectation that a Myers extension wouldn’t include multiple free agent seasons without flying past $100 MM, it’s hard not to be happy with it, even though first base is the least important position on the totem pole.

And on the other hand, Solarte’s contract can’t really fail or at least it faces really long odds of doing so.

Basically, the Padres agreed to a binding arbitration figure with Solarte for both 2017 and 2018, with the Padres possessing the option to retain Solarte for (what is likely to be) below-market value in his final year of arbitration and one year of free agency. Both of those options carry a buyout of less than a million.

In the worst case scenario, where Solarte’s production degrades, the Padres wouldn’t exercise his options. While that amounts to cutting him, the alternative in those scenarios is having a very minor trade piece; a degraded Solarte about to hit free agency isn’t going to get you anything anyway. If he plays well, however, the Padres have avoided large arbitration figures and bought a one year extension for the bargain cost of $8 million. It almost can’t fail.

Don’t get me wrong: Solarte could end up sucking in 2018. His strikeout rate went up considerably last year – from 10.8% and 9.8% in his first two years to 14.2% – and he isn’t exactly known for defense or baserunning. That can be a problem for a guy with low enough BABIPs that projections are now betting on low BABIPs going forward. Of course, despite those trends, his overall offensive contributions have gone up over three seasons, largely due to his soaring isolated power:

screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-1-21-44-pm

One of the closest historical comparables for Yangervis Solarte is former Cincinnati Reds bespectacled third-baseman Chris Sabo.

Their comparison is almost uncanny, especially given Solarte’s late arrival to the majors and “a little of this, a little of that” offensive contributions.

Descriptively, both Sabo and Solarte debuted at 26. Both are undersized, 5’11” third basemen who endeared themselves to fans with their spirited play. Statistically, both offer moderate gap power and above-average plate discipline. Both sport below-average BABIPs and started off with low isolated power number that jumped considerably in years two and three. Both hovered just above league-average offensively (by wOBA) before a year three breakout:

sabosolarte

Sabo was worth roughly 8 W.A.R. over his “arbitration” seasons before becoming a replacement-level player over the final three seasons of his career, ending at age 34. Granted, Sabo also ran and had more favorable defensive numbers than Solarte, so those 8 wins aren’t a fair expectation for Yangervis. However, were Solarte to continue down the Chris Sabo path by building on his 2016, and putting up a career year in 2017, he’d be due for fairly sizable arbitration raises. At that point, Solarte wouldn’t consider yielding a year of free agency and any contract extension would require guaranteeing multiple seasons.

In other words, the Padres bought Solarte at basically the last reasonable opportunity to do so. Waiting any longer would have required absorbing risk and would have wiped away nearly any opportunity of creating a contractual surplus. Solarte might crash back to earth as a barely-above-replacement level player, with a now marginally-inflated 2018 salary compared to that outcome’s likely arbitration value, or he might continue improving, giving the Padres a bonafide average baseball player on a series of team-friendly options.

If forced to pick which deal was better, I’d have a hard time choosing. I love the contractual surplus for Myers, but wonder if a, let’s face it, injury-prone firstbaseman makes that surplus less beneficial than if it were catcher or centerfielder. I love the Solarte deal for its pure “win or not lose” dichotomy, but it’s hard to get too excited over a one-year extension where you’re hoping for the player to sustain averageness. You need both of these types of contract wins to succeed long-term, but I’m still not sure which one is better. It’s like having a fool-proof bond and then being offered a hot stock at a bargain: a good portfolio has some of both.

Surprisingly, Twitter was extremely one-sided in its assessment:

Or maybe it’s not actually that surprising. After watching the entire football franchise walk out the door, it’d be hard to stomach a contractual impasse chasing away the best player left in San Diego.

Thankfully, the Padres aren’t stubbornly complaining about offset language and it appears that these owners aren’t completely fucking heartless cowards.

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