With the promotion of Thairo Estrada, SF Giants middle infielder Donovan Solano might be in jeopardy of losing playing time. The right-handed bat has had a subpar season, slashing .278/.332/.386 (100 OPS+) with three home runs and 18 RBI while being worth 0.9 WAR across 196 plate appearances.
SF Giants: Is Donovan Solano in danger of losing playing time?
His first two seasons were strong as he posted a .328/.362/.459 line (120 OPS+) with seven home runs and 52 while being worth 3.0 WAR. This included a National League Silver Slugger Award at second base in 2020.
However, the 33-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season and the Giants might be toying with the idea of finding an in-season replacement with Estrada. It is hard to ignore the similarities between Estrada and Solano.
On a 26-man roster where each player fulfills a different role, there is not enough room for redundancy. This is not necessarily to say that Solano and Estrada are redundant pieces on the roster. After all, Solano has turned his career around since joining the Giants on a minor-league pact in 2019.
That said, both Solano and Estrada bat from the right side, employ a contact-heavy approach, and play multiple infield positions. Defensively, Estrada has the edge as he is a better fielder overall and can play second base, shortstop, third base, and he even has some experience in left field. Solano has been limited to just second base in 2021 and he has produced mixed results (-1 DRS, +3 OAA) depending on the metric you use.
With the glove, he has been far better than his 2020 season where he committed 11 errors in 52 games while spending time at second base, third base, and shortstop. However, the Giants value versatility and Solano has been strictly limited to second base this season.
The Giants know what the 33-year-old can do with the bat. When he is locked in, Solano can be one of the better hitters for average in the National League. Estrada’s offensive profile at the major league level remains a mystery.
In two seasons with the New York Yankees, the 25-year-old struggled to a .214/.267/.348 line (65 OPS+) with four home runs and 15 RBI in 121 plate appearances. He was on the roster bubble with the Yankees and they swung a trade, sending Estrada to San Francisco in exchange for cash considerations.
Since joining the Giants organization, the right-handed bat has been on a tear. He was assigned to Triple-A following the trade and posted a .385/.448/.609 line with seven home runs and 33 RBI. The home run total is just one shy of his career-high as a minor leaguer, so Estrada has displayed some surprising power. Furthermore, he maintained good plate discipline as he had a 9.2 percent walk rate against a 14.4 percent strikeout rate.
The early returns in the Orange and Black have been favorable as well. Albeit in a very small sample, Estrada has recorded four hits, including a double and a home run, in nine at-bats with three walks and no strikeouts.
Obviously, it is too early to grasp anything from Estrada’s performance. But, if you are looking at his skill set and profile, it could mean less playing time for Solano down the stretch. Solano has the upper hand given his track record, but the Giants want more offense from the second base position. Estrada might not be able to offer that, but they seem interested in finding out what he can do.