Solarte: SD, fans made extension easy choice

Third baseman grateful to community for support in wake of wife's death

Solarte: SD, fans made extension easy choice

SAN DIEGO -- Speaking publicly for the first time since signing a contract extension, Yangervis Solarte said he's "really happy, really grateful" to have secured his future in San Diego.

But the Padres' third baseman made one other thing clear: He is not satisfied yet.

"In the Minor Leagues, I was playing to support my family," Solarte said through a team interpreter. "I had to go out there and do my work every day. That was really the main focus. Now that I have this contract, and I'm in this position, that's not going to change. Thanks to God for helping me get here. But if anything, I'm going to work three times as hard."

On Friday, the Padres announced a two-year contract extension with Solarte, a $7.5 million deal that includes team options for 2019 and '20 worth a combined $13.5 million. On the field, the 29-year-old infielder batted .286/.341/.467 with 15 home runs last season.

Solarte's big day at the dish

Off the field, Solarte dealt with personal tragedy, as his wife, Yuliett, lost her battle with cancer in mid-September. When he returned to the team, he was greeted warmly -- both in the clubhouse and by the Petco Park faithful. That fact did not go overlooked.

"Having that support meant a ton, just being here with my teammates," Solarte said. "A lot of that factored into my thinking coming back here, knowing that I'd be here. I could play here calmly and know that I have this family here. I can tell you it was a very difficult moment."

On Thursday, Solarte will head to the BBWAA dinner in Boston, where he will be the recipient of the Tony Conigliaro Award, given annually to "the Major Leaguer who has overcome adversity through the attributes of spirit, courage and determination."

"He talks about this as his Padre family," said manager Andy Green. "You lose a wife -- no group, no extended family, no team can ever replace that. But it's nice to have a team that loves a guy and helps carry him through that."

Green said it's more than likely Solarte will serve as the team's starting third baseman next season. But he left open the possibility of a switch back to second base (in which case Ryan Schimpf and/or Cory Spangenberg would move to third).

Solarte will continue to anchor the middle of the Padres' lineup, giving protection to slugging first baseman Wil Myers (who could be ticketed for an extension as well). Before he signed the deal, Solarte had three years of arbitration remaining. But Green noted how the extension served in the best interests of both parties.

"It gives us a degree of cost certainty that's good for us as an organization," Green said. "Personally, it gives him some financial stability in life. With what he's been through, I think it's a tremendous gesture from the organization to give him that security and us the cost certainty at the same time. It was just a perfect partnership."

Preller on Solarte's extension

Since joining the Padres in the 2014 deal that sent Chase Headley to the Yankees, Solarte has emerged as a fan favorite in San Diego. He took time on Monday to thank the fans and organization.

"That's one of the things that factored in, being here every day, being happy right here in San Diego," Solarte said. "Coming to the park everyday and being happy -- that was one of the things I tried to maintain throughout all of those very difficult moments that I overcame.

"I signed the contract, I can't believe it. I'm so happy to be here and know that we have a family here in San Diego, in the Padres."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.