According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Minnesota Twins agreed to a 1-year, Major League deal with infielder Donovan Solano last night.
Twins in agreement with free-agent infielder Donovan Solano on a one-year, major-league contract, pending physical, a source tells @TheAthletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 21, 2023
With a Big League deal, Solano will need a 40-man roster spot. With Spring Training officially underway, teams are eligible to utilize the 60-day IL again, meaning the Twins can simply move one of their players recovering from a long-term injury to clear a spot. Candidates include Matt Canterino, Chris Paddack, and Royce Lewis.
Solano is older and not as flashy as names like Jurickson Profar, but he brings a skillset that the Twins had a bigger need for. He can theoretically play second or third base, but is probably more suited for first at this point in his career. He doesn’t bring much baserunning value. He makes good contact and will have a good average, but doesn’t get on base or hit for power at all that great of a clip. Solano is essentially a Walmart-brand Luis Arraez.
Solano is a high-floor, low-ceiling type of player. In 2022, he hit .284/.339/.385 with the Cincinnati Reds, putting his .724 OPS right at league average. As a right-handed hitter, he was slightly better against lefties last season with a .770 OPS.
While none of those numbers are all that exciting, having a perfectly average player who hits lefties well was a big need for the Twins. A team loaded with left-handed options needed someone who could hold their own, which is exactly what Solano will provide. A platoon option for Kirilloff/Gallo at first, and someone who can hold his own at the position for a few weeks if injuries necessitate that.
Prior to the signing, the Twins were likely going into the season with a bench of Kyle Farmer, Michael A. Taylor, Ryan Jeffers, and Nick Gordon. With Gordon out of options and the veterans locked into their roster spots, Solano likely pushes Trevor Larnach out of the DH/outfield rotation and starts his season in St. Paul. While Larnach is definitely deserving of an Opening Day spot, the Twins’ plethora of lefty-hitting corner outfielders leaves him as the odd man out.
Of course, the chances of this being the actual team on Opening Day are slim. Injuries are inevitable, whether they be major or minor, and there’s always the possibility of a Spring trade before the start of the season. Look no further than last year’s Taylor Rogers/Emilio Pagán + Chris Paddack swap.
The addition of Solano strikes a similar tone to the Joe Smith signing in 2022: a solid, respected veteran who is likely on their last legs. The Twins can afford to take a gamble and see if Solano can provide the right-handed bat the team needs, and if it goes poorly, he can be cut without any long-term ramifications.