Braves and Blue Jays Swap Shortstops
The Deal: The Atlanta Braves trade SS Yunel Escobar and LHP Jo Jo Reyes to the Blue Jays for SS Alex Gonzalez, LHP Tim Collins (AA), and SS Tyler Pastornicky (A+):
Atlanta: The Braves sold low on their one-time franchise shortstop as Escobar is in the middle of the worst season of his 4-year career. While never a big power guy, Escobar had an OPS over .800 in two of his three seasons. Combined with his stellar defense, his age (27) and the fact that next season will be just his first year of Arbitration, Escobar was practically untouchable at the beginning of the season. Fast forward 3 and a half months (and show a .618 OPS) and the Braves are moving their one time star for a short term fix. Alex Gonzalez is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career with 17 home runs and 25 doubles already this season (23 and 36 are his career bests and those were in separate years). Gonzalez is also known as a pretty good defensive shortstop. He is owed another $1 million + this year, and has a team option for $2.5 million next year. The two prospects the Braves received in return are both solid guys, but neither is a top tier guy. Collins is closer to the majors and could be a part of a major league pen sometime next year. He probably won’t ever be a 8th or 9th inning guy, but should offer solid middle relief innings. Pastornicky could one day replace Escobar as the Braves SS of the future, but he is far from a sure thing. He has good speed and is considered a good defensive SS, he will need to hit more to be an every day player.
Blue Jays: Toronto did well to sell high on Gonzalez, both Escobar and Reyes are young and controllable for the foreseeable future. While Gonzalez was cheap, his numbers had been slipping and there was by no means any faith that he could put up a good year next season. Escobar on the other hand is still a talented young player, who should rebound after this disastrous first half. Escobar is neither a speed or real power guy, but he makes solid contact and gets his share of doubles. Generally he should be a .775-.825 OPS shortstop and that is all you can ask from that position. Escobar’s walk rate this year is the highest its ever been and his strikeout rate is slightly below his career average, leading me to believe that he should easily be able to turn this around. Escobar is also no slouch in the field as well, and should quickly fill Gonzalez’s defensive shoes. Reyes was once considered a top young arm in the Braves system, while he never fulfilled that promise, he is a 25-year old lefty with a solid arm. He has both started and relieved in the past, but will likely help the Jays bullpen.
My Take: I think the Braves sacrificed the future in hopes of winning now. A lot of that hope is predicated on the fact that Alex Gonzalez doesn’t nosedive, which given his career history is highly probable. Even in the Braves win the short term of this deal, I like what the Blue Jays did long term in getting Escobar. Toronto is building a good group of major leaguers and advanced prospects, that they could be ready to challenge in the A.L. East sooner rather than later. Toronto wins for me, but not by much.