Donovan Solano's late-career renaissance has continued through the 2023 season. After returning to Major League Baseball in 2019, he has been a consistent above-average presence in the San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and last season, the Minnesota Twins line-ups. Solano enters free agency again, looking to continue his success.
Last year, Solano batted .282/.369/.391 with a .338 wOBA, and 116 wRC+. Solano walked at a career-best 8.9% rate and paired that with a 22.2% strikeout rate, the latter of which was about league average. Solano has never been a power threat. He has surpassed a half-dozen home runs just once in his career, and his .109 isolated slugging percentage is actually above his career average. But you can't deny Solano's consistency over the last five seasons.
Since returning to the Majors, Solano has batted .296/.355/.413 with a 112 wRC+. He has batted at least .280 with a wRC+ of 100 or better. That means at his very worst, he was still collecting hits at an above-average rate, with an overall league average or better productivity. His worst season since his comeback was 2022, in which he still hit .284/.339/.385 with a 100 wRC+.
Solano can play second base, third base, and first base. Last season, he played first more than any other position but graded out as a poor defender with -2 defensive runs saved and -3 outs above average. However, both OAA and DRS painted him in a positive light the year prior at first base. He provided playable defense at the keystone (+3 DRS, 0 OAA), as well as the hot corner (0 DRS, -1 OAA), so he could sub-in occasionally there as well. Solano has not played a game at shortstop since 2021 and hasn't played more than 20 innings there since 2019, so outside of emergency duty, he'd probably play best at just 1B/2B/3B.
Solano isn't a weak batter who just sprays bloopers over the fielder's heads. He might not be a massive home run hitter, but he drives the gaps with authority. He had a 90.2 MPH exit velocity (68th percentile) and a 43.7% hard-hit rate (65th percentile). Solano had a sweet-spot rate (how often a batter hits a ball in the launch angle between eight and 32 degrees, the most effective range in terms of LA) of 43.1%, which was in the 99th percentile. He hit 26 doubles in just 450 plate appearances, which is 35 in 600 PAs. There was even more potential for power, as Solano had a .413 expected slugging percentage on the season.
Solano is sort of a Luis Arraez-lite, putting a heavy focus on batting average and on-base percentage over slugging. Sure, that might not be a popular approach in 2023, but it gets the job done. Solano has been a league-average or better hitter every season for the past five seasons. In my opinion, he is one of the most underrated free agents currently available. The only thing I'd be worried about is how he will age. He is going into his age-36 campaign, though I'd be willing to bet he could do it again next year.