The Padres are in agreement on a minor league contract with veteran infielder Erick Aybar, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). The 33-year-old Roc Nation Sports client will compete with Luis Sardinas for the shortstop gig in San Diego.
Aybar opened the 2016 season with the Braves after being included alongside Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis in the Andrelton Simmons trade with the Angels, but he slumped terribly to open the season. A summer surge led to a trade to the Tigers, where he improved with the bat and slashed .250/.341/.350 in a small sample of 91 plate appearances. Overall, however, his .243/.303/.320 batting line left plenty to be desired and forced the longtime Angels infielder to settle for a non-guaranteed deal.
Last season marked the second straight down season for Aybar, but from 2011-14, he was a consistently, if unspectacular option at shortstop in Anaheim. In those four seasons, he batted a combined .279/.317/.399 with solid glovework, above-average baserunning and modest pop. The Padres will be hoping for a return to that form or for Sardinas to continue the production he demonstrated following a trade last August.
In a tiny sample of 120 plate appearances with the Padres, Sardinas hit .287/.353/.417 with a pair of homers, six doubles and a triple. He’s long been praised as an above-average defender at shortstop, too, so if he can continue to provide some semblance of offense, he could emerge as a long-term option for GM A.J. Preller and manager Andy Green. The addition of Aybar, though, suggests that the Padres won’t simply hand over the shortstop reins to the 23-year-old Sardinas. The Friars could continue to look for additional options at shortstop, though the free-agent market is lacking in that regard outside of former Padre Alexei Ramirez, whose time in San Diego did not go well. Spring Training, though, could lead to the emergence of alternatives on the waiver wire as well as out-of-options players who look unlikely to break camp with their clubs.