My first reaction upon viewing the trade consummated by the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves was the Jays came out way ahead in the deal. In fact, I couldn’t believe Yunel Escobar was dealt in the first place, and to the Blue Jays to boot. After letting it settle and looking into the secondary pieces involved going both ways, my opinion was slightly more tempered as while it appears the Jays did well on paper as always “time will tell” if this trade makes much of a difference in the long run.
First off, when AA (Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos) stated Yunel was in the discussion for one of the top young SS in the game, he was not exaggerating as Escobar is legit, and has the numbers to back it up. Although he is mired in his worst statistical season ever, if Escobar reaches his full potential this trade will look completely brilliant for the Jays. Even if he just returns to his 2009 season level and stats, the Jays have a solid keeper at SS for a few years.
In 141 games last season the 28 year old shortstop racked up an impressive 4.3 WAR, 357 wOBA and had a solid defensive 1.6 UZR rating. His triple slash line of 299/377/436 was nothing to sneeze at and it was coupled with 158 hits, 26 doubles and 14 homeruns. Plate discipline is something of a foreign concept to most Blue Jays hitters but Escobar has shown signs of an improving eye in 2009 he only struck out at an 11.9% clip, and swung at pitches outside of the zone only 21% of the time.
More encouraging is that as lousy as Escobar has been in 2010 for the Braves (and the only reason a player of his calibre was even available) is that his season appears to be an outlier in my opinion. His BB% has risen from 9.4% to 12.3%, his K% has stayed the same, he has more BBs (37) than K’s (31), his BABIP isn’t terribly low, but at .270 is 46 points below his career average. His batted ball profile looks nearly identical from year to year as he is hitting the same amount of groundballs (50%), line drives (18.4%) and fly balls (30.7%) but the big issue is the fly balls he is hitting are not leaving the ball park.
In 2009, 10.1% of Escobar’s fly balls went from homeruns, in 2010 a big fat ZERO – yes, you read that right. Escobar has been better in the field by most defensive metrics in 2010 and is essentially the same hitter he has always been, but predicative factors have rendered him a tad on the unlucky side. This is a classic case of buying a decent commodity at its lowest value all while selling Alex Gonzalez at his highest on his career year backed by marginal peripherals at best.
The Jays had to move an interesting reliever in Tim Collins, and everybody is impressed with the 70+ strikeouts in 40+ IPs but unless goes on to have a Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera type career his value is severely limited being merely a relief pitcher. I agree he certainly would have been a fan favourite due to his limited stature and quirky delivery, but you can’t fault AA for pulling the trigger on this deal, the Jays gain six years on their starting shortstop and gain three years of team control through arbitration so they get a cost controlled dry run to determine if he is worth keeping.