SF Giants The Arbitration Case for Donovan Solano

Donovan Solano #7 of the SF Giants at bat against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on September 22, 2020. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Donovan Solano #7 of the SF Giants at bat against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on September 22, 2020. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
SF Giants, Donovan Solano
SF Giants second baseman Donovan Solano (right) hits a RBI-single against Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Daulton Varsho (left) during the third inning at Oracle Park. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports) /

Infielder Donovan Solano is eligible for arbitration for the third time in his career, but what are the odds that the SF Giants tender him a contract?

The SF Giants must decide whether to tender contracts to nine arbitration-eligible players prior to the December 2, 2020 deadline. Infielder Donovan Solano may seem like a slam dunk case, but there it’s not as straightforward as it may appear.

Donovan Solano Before 2020

Donovan Solano debuted with the Miami Marlins back in 2012 as a 24-year-old rookie where he posted a solid .717 OPS (94 OPS+) in 316 plate appearances. However, that would be his strongest season at the plate for the next several years.

From 2013-2015, Solano continued receiving substantial opportunities with the Marlins, but his production at the plate waned. In that timespan, he slashed a .243/.293/.310 line while getting plenty of work all around the diamond.

However, Miami released the veteran infielder after the 2015 season and he had a brief stint with the New York Yankees in 2016. Since then, he has bounced around the minor-league circuit.

The Giants signed Solano to a minor league pact before the 2019 season, but no one could have expected how he would impact the ball club.

Across 228 plate appearances, the right-handed bat slashed a .330/.360/.456 line (116 OPS+) with four home runs and 23 RBI in 2019. The late-career renaissance seems to be due to a change in swing mechanics that is producing line drives at a high clip.

Donovan Solano in 2020 with the SF Giants

Many expected his age-31 season to be a fluke since baseball players do not normally have career years at that age out of nowhere. He had the 2020 season to prove last year was no fluke. He did not disappoint.

Solano picked up exactly where he left in 2019. In 203 plate appearances, the 32-year-old posted a .326/.365/.463 line (128 OPS+) with three home runs and 29 RBI while frequently hitting in the middle of the order.

Furthermore, he produced a line drive in 27.6 percent of his batted ball events, thereby continuing a trend he has demonstrated since joining San Francisco.

As good as the veteran infielder was at the plate, Solano had his fair share of struggles with the glove. He saw time at second base, third base, and shortstop, but struggled to play any of the three positions competently.

In total, he committed 11 errors, including seven at second base. The remaining four errors were accumulated at the hot corner, which he played when starting third baseman Evan Longoria was on the shelf to start the season.

Solano saw most of his time at second base, but the defensive metrics were not a fan of his work there either. It wasn’t the abysmal ratings assigned to his time at third, but in 45 games at second, he was worth one DRS and -3.9 UZR. Throughout his career, Solano has been competent defensively and it may be worth considering that he got out of sorts when he was put at third.

Should the SF Giants Tender Donovan Solano?

After earning a $1.4 million salary in 2020, Solano should see a nice raise in 2021. Since joining San Francisco, he has proven that he can handle a bench role as well as a starter’s workload.

With the uncertainty over whether the DH will remain in the National League next season, I do wonder if the Giants might have a roster jam at second base. If the DH does not return, then the Giants will need to get at-bats for Solano as well as Wilmer Flores. Neither player show an adequate glove in 2020, so finding at-bats anywhere else in the field is going to be tough.

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Regardless, teams can never have enough infield depth, especially at the price Solano will earn through arbitration. Tendering him a contract is the likeliest scenario. There may be a trade market for his services though that the Giants could take advantage of.