Erick Aybar's steady decline continued in 2017. For years, Aybar was a steady source of steals and batting average at shortstop, but his early 30s have not been kind to him. Aybar hasn't posted an OPS of .700 or better since 2014. Over the past three years, he owns just a .253/.301/.335 batting line, has just 29 steals and has been caught stealing 15 times. Aybar had to wait for a one-year deal from the Padres and will likely find himself in a similar situation on the free-agent market this season. Anybody with his experience at shortstop -- now over 11 years in the big leagues -- will likely attract interest, but it would be surprising if Aybar managed to land a starting role out of camp.
Aybar went 2-for-4 with a pair of stolen bases in Wednesday's 13-7 loss to Arizona. The 33-year-old is still getting it done on the basepaths, reaching double-digit steals for the eighth time in his 12-year career. Aybar has started 13 of the 16 games he has appeared in since returning from the disabled list Sept. 1, providing deep-league value over that span (.278 with a home run and three steals).
Aybar went 3-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and two runs scored in Friday's 10-6 win over the Diamondbacks. The veteran shortstop has started six of the Padres' last seven games despite the club being well out of contention. Aybar has gone 8-for-26 with three extra-base hits over that span, giving him deep-league appeal as long as he continues to see regular playing time.
Aybar will start at shortstop and bat second Monday against the Cardinals. Aybar was expected to see a reduced role in the final month of the season after being reinstated from the 10-day disabled list Friday, but he'll earn a third consecutive start Monday after providing a two-run home run a day earlier. Yangervis Solarte has been a fixture in the lineup of late as a roving utility man, so in order to clear a regular spot for him, one of Aybar, second baseman Carlos Asuaje and third baseman Cory Spangenberg will likely sit out every contest. It will be Asuaje's turn to take a seat Monday, allowing Aybar to maintain his spot in the starting nine.
Aybar got the nod at short Sunday, going 1-for-4 with a two-run home run in a 6-4 win over the Dodgers. Aybar was able to get in the starting lineup on consecutive days due to Saturday's doubleheader and Cory Spangenberg's rest day on Sunday; he went 4-for-8 over that span. The majority of the 33-year-old's .234/.302/.364 slash line was accumulated as a starter at the beginning of the season, but he will likely be limited to a start or two per week as a backup infielder down the stretch.
Aybar was used as a pinch hitter Friday, failing to reach base in a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers. It was the veteran shortstop's first action since going on the disabled list with a broken foot July 22. The Padres' infield has become a little more crowded since Aybar was sidelined, so he will likely be used sparingly as the club takes a look at younger options in the final month of the season.