The Blue Jays opened a lone spot on their 40-man roster by declining to make a contract offer to third baseman Yangervis Solarte before Friday’s deadline.
The 31-year-old Solarte was one of 10 arbitration-eligible Jays who required an offer by the 8 p.m. cutoff or they would have become free agents.
The other nine — Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Devon Travis, Brandon Drury, Kevin Pillar, Randal Grichuk, Joe Biagini, Ryan Tepera and Ken Giles — were all tendered contracts for 2019, the club announced more than an hour before the deadline.
Solarte was widely expected to become a free agent after the Jays declined his $5.5-million option (all dollars U.S.) in late October at a cost of $750,000. The infielder was projected to be awarded $5.9 million in his third year of salary arbitration eligibility, according to MLB Trade Rumours.
He spent one season with the Jays, traded from the San Diego Padres for minor leaguers Jared Carkuff and Edward Olivares in January.
Solarte endeared himself to Jays fans quickly with his signature dance moves, in and around the dugout, and leaping celebrations down the third-base line after home runs. He got off to a hot start in April, but his slashline fell for a second straight season to .226/.277/.378 for a .655 on-base plus slugging mark. He finished the year with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs in 122 games.
With Brandon Drury — acquired from the Yankees for J.A. Happ before the trade deadline — and No. 1 prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. available at the hot corner next season, a return by Solarte always seemed unlikely. The Venezuelan’s versatility, though — he saw time at first, second, third and shortstop this year — should help him find a free-agent suitor elsewhere.
The Jays’ 40-man roster now sits at 39 after they also outrighted reliever Mark Leiter Jr. to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. The right-hander was designated for assignment earlier this week, after the Jays claimed righty Oliver Drake off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Solarte was among several big-league regulars who became free agents Friday:
- Cincinnati outfielder Billy Hamilton was arguably the most surprising non-tender of the day. The 28-year-old has stolen at least 56 bases in four of the last five years and racked up highlight-reel catches in centre for the Reds, but only managed one full season with an on-base percentage above .300.
- Former Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is also looking for new digs after he was non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers. An all-star in 2017, Schoop was traded from the Orioles to the Brewers on July 31 after hitting .244 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs for Baltimore. His struggles worsened in Milwaukee, where he hit just .202 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in the final two months of the season.“Look, it was a bad deal, and that’s on me,” Brewers general manager David Stearns told reporters in Milwaukee. “We made a trade for a player we thought was going to be here for a year and a half, and I was wrong.”
- Other notables now on the market: outfielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman/DH Matt Davidson, cut loose by the Chicago White Sox; infielder Wilmer Flores, non-tendered by the New York Mets; and right-handers Brad Boxberger and Shelby Miller, set free by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Laura Armstrong is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy