Donovan Solano is among the most confounding players in Major League Baseball. He did not hit much until 2019, when he broke out with the Giants. Now 33, he’s posted two excellent seasons with peripherals that suggest his success is difficult to keep up. And yet, he has kept it up thus far.
It appears the Giants and Solano’s camp will now let an arbitrator decide his complicated worth.
The Giants and Solano did not come to an agreement before Friday’s deadline to exchange contract figures for the 2021 season, KNBR confirmed. According to MLB.com, Solano filed for $3.9 million, while the Giants countered at $3.25 million. Presuming neither side budges, an arbitrator will pick a figure (but not one in between) in February.
Solano reportedly was one of 13 players across MLB to not reach agreement with his team; the Giants did agree with Reyes Moronta — reportedly at $695,000 — the only other arbitration-eligible player they had not yet signed.
The case for and against Solano will be interesting. The second baseman played 370 MLB games from 2012-16 with the Marlins and then Yankees and never posted an above-average hitting season. The 2017 and ’18 seasons were spent in the minors, as was the beginning of his Giants tenure in 2019. But he was called up, and the legend of Donnie Barrels was born. Primarily platooning and killing lefty pitching in ’19, he batted .330 but had a BABIP — batting average on balls in play — of .409, which screamed regression.
The Giants did not seem to fully buy into the success, adding first Mauricio Dubon and then Wilmer Flores. But Solano, again penciled in as a platoon bat, swung his way to being an everyday player in 2020, when he won the Silver Slugger at second and slashed .326/.365/.463. Again his BABIP was high — .396 — but it’s possible that with a line-drive swing and his propensity for barreling up balls, he’s the real deal.
The Giants will defend him, too, except when they have to argue against him. This is part of why teams especially try so hard to avoid arbitration hearings — the Giants didn’t go to any last season — as they would rather not let their player and his agent hear the argument for why he should make less money.
They won’t have that problem with Moronta, who by all accounts is healthy after 2019 shoulder surgery that kept him off a major league field last season. Despite the injury and lack of recent playing time, defining his value was easier than defining Solano’s.