SCOTTSDALE — Donovan Solano is good at the game part of baseball. He is pretty understanding of the business aspect, too.
Solano, a Silver Slugger winner last year, went to arbitration with the Giants in his final year before free agency, the team fighting him on $650,000. Solano and his agency filed at $3.9 million, the team at $3.25 million, which is what Solano will be paid after the team won the Thursday hearing. It was the club’s first case that went to arbitration since after the 2003 season with A.J. Pierzynski.
There are not going to be many defenders of a multi-billion dollar company battling for relative pennies with a 33-year-old who finally has established himself in the majors. The always calm Solano, though, said he was not upset.
“The initial reaction is you always ask yourself, ‘Why?’ But at the same time, you think about that you only played 60 games,” Solano said Wednesday through translator Erwin Higueros. “So it was difficult. You go out there and you gamble, and I lost. But at the same time, you kind of have to reflect on the fact that not so long ago I was in Triple-A.”
He was in Triple-A with the Giants to begin 2019, not having played in the majors since a cup of coffee in 2016. He got the call up, though, and has not stopped hitting, blooming late en route to hitting .328 in two seasons with the Giants and earning the “Donnie Barrels” nickname.
His play got him recognized as the NL’s best hitting second baseman months before the Giants fought him for a few hundred thousand dollars. He said he was not in touch with the Giants during the process, letting his agent handle everything, and doesn’t view the team any differently now. A player so used to the ups and downs of baseball was able to take the loss in stride.
So he looks forward to a season in which he’s entering as a roster lock for the first time in his career — even though there’s more competition now, with not just Wilmer Flores but Tommy La Stella battling at second. He said he spent much of his offseason, during which he was home in Colombia, working on his defense.
It sounds as if second is primarily where Solano, a former shortstop, will see his time. Gabe Kapler, asked about the depth behind Brandon Crawford, pointed to veteran non-roster invite Arismendy Alcantara.
“With Donovan, probably primarily third base if there’s anything beyond second base,” the manager said over Zoom.
Solano’s other focus has been adding some power to his game. He has blistered so many pitches but has had a swing that produces many more line-drives than deep flies. In 431 plate appearances with San Francisco, he’s totaled seven homers.
“I would like to have the same kind of year that I had last year,” Solano said, before adding, “I want to get more home runs.”
If he can infuse more pop into a game that already has won him some accolades, it’ll benefit the Giants and a to-be free agent at the right time. He said he heard from a couple coaches who said they had voted for him for the Silver Slugger, but he also checked out Robinson Cano’s numbers and doubted his chances.
“I was surprised that I won,” Solano said. “So another blessing that I got from God.”