Wren had to trade Escobar
If their current offensive numbers remain the same, I would still enter
this offseason with the belief that instead of Alex Gonzalez, I’d still
rather have Yunel Escobar as my shortstop during the 2011 season.
if placed in Braves general manager Frank Wren’s shoes, I would have
also pulled the trigger on Wednesday’s five-player trade with the Blue
Jays. There’s a difference between making projections in the offseason
and taking care of immediate needs during the season.
certainly a chance that Escobar will turn things around and Gonzalez
will spend the second half of the season looking more like a .402
slugger (his career slugging percentage) than the guy who is currently
on pace to hit 31 homers this year, seven fewer than he hit over the
course of the past five seasons combined.
But there’s also a
chance that Escobar’s personality would have continued to prove to be a
negative presence within an otherwise harmonious clubhouse.
the end, Escobar gave Wren little reason to continue weighing the pros
and cons. Once the Cuban shortstop made his lazy throw to first base
and nearly caused Troy Glaus great harm on Friday night at Citi Field,
the Braves GM began accelerating the efforts that enabled him to land
Gonzalez from the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
“It’s easier to put up with that kind of stuff when the guy is hitting
.300,” one veteran Braves player said in reference to the fact that he
and his teammates have been less forgiving of Escobar’s mental mistakes
while watching him hit just .239 with ZERO homers and 19 RBIs this
When you look at Gonzalez’ career statistics you see
jumps that appear to be as dramatic as the ones Escobar has staged while
drawing attention to himself in the on-deck circle.
look at Escobar, you see a 27-year-old shortstop with a world of
potential and a personality that could have proven to be detrimental to
the Braves as they attempt to make a strong postseason push this year.
saw this potential and also recognized the fact that many members of
his team wanted him to get rid of Escobar. Thus when the Blue Jays were
willing to offer Gonzalez and two respected 20-year-old prospects
(shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and left-handed pitcher Tim Collins), he
jumped at the opportunity.
The Braves needed a Major League-ready
shortstop who would be as affordable as Escobar. Gonzalez will receive
$2.5 million via an option for the 2011 season and Escobar will make
around $3 million when he becomes an arbitration-eligible player at the
end of this season.
“How can (the Braves) want to get rid of a
guy so bad and then end up getting a shortstop and two good prospects
like that in return,” one American League scout questioned Wednesday
As the Blue Jays look toward the future, they
have reason to be happy with Escobar’s capabilities. As I’ve said many
times, he was the most valuable Braves player in 2009 and remains one of
the game’s best defensive shortstops.
Wren said Gonzalez is
comparable to Escobar defensively, but “not as flashy.” That will be
just fine with the members of the Braves coaching staff who grew tired
of watching the Cuban shortstop attempt to make the routine double play
turn into one that appear on all the highlight shows.
course of the next couple months, the Braves will likely be happy with
the fact that they’ve replaced Gonzalez with Escobar. It appears he’ll
have little trouble fitting into this clubhouse.
“I can’ say
enough about Alex Gonzalez the person more than the player,” Blue Jays
GM Alex Anthopoulos said. “The production and the results speak for
themselves. As I told Alex, the two most professional position players
that I’ve probably been around in my time in the game has been Scott
Rolen and Alex Gonzalez. Just the way he carries himself, the way he
conducts himself, he’s a tremendous teammate and a quiet leader — not
an easy guy to part with.”
Based purely on talent and
potential, it wasn’t easy for the Braves to part ways with Escobar. But
as he continued to prove stubborn and unwilling to learn from his
mistakes, he left Wren with no choice.