It was about a week ago when a routine grounder to shortstop turned into a lazy throw to first base that could have seriously injured Troy Glaus. Luckily Troy was okay, but that may have been the last Yunel Escobar incident that the Braves wanted to deal with.
For weeks they had insisted they had no intention of trading Escobar, but as soon as MLB allows teams to announce moves after the All-Star game, the Braves made the move to rid themselves of their enigmatic shortstop. In return they get a proven veteran shortstop in Alex Gonzalez, who is signed through next season and has playoff and World Series experience.
Gonzalez may not be the flashiest name on the shortstop market, and he is six years older than Escobar, but the trade gives the Braves an upgrade at short and an upgrade in the lineup. The argument about this trade for years to come will be one of potential versus proven results. Escobar has shown great potential in the Majors up until this year, but the Braves impatience with him leads to them selling low. Gonzalez has been a proven Major League shortstop for years, and he is currently enjoying what should be a career year, so the Braves are certainly buying while the price is high.
Despite those factors the Braves seem to have made out pretty well in this trade. In the near term they remove the team's biggest distraction who is also perhaps their biggest unknown from their everyday lineup. And for this year at least they get a hot-hitting shortstop. Gonzalez will replace Yunel in the seventh or eighth spot in the lineup, so adding that kind of free-swinging power to the lineup in a spot where the team was previously getting below replacement level production should be good for a few more runs a week. The free swinging ways of Gonzalez should not be an impediment that low in the order, as long as he continues to hit for good power.
|2010 - Yunel Escobar||75||261||28||62||12||0||0||19||37||31||5||1||.238||.334||.284|
|2010 - Alex Gonzalez||85||328||47||85||25||1||17||50||17||65||1||0||.259||.296||.497|
There were other players in the trade too. Embattled left-handed starter/reliever Jo-Jo Reyes was also sent to Toronto, though how the Braves convinced the Blue Jays there was any value in him I'll never know. Perhaps there's an open rotation spot in Las Vegas the Jays needed to fill. Getting rid of Jo-Jo is more like addition by subtraction for Atlanta. He is another player the Braves had tired of.
The Braves got two prospects who they will assign to double-A Mississippi. Tyler Pastornicky is a light-hitting speedy shortstop in the Adam Everett mold. He's nothing too special, but could become a ready replacement for A-Gonz in a couple of years until the more talented shortstops below him are ready. I am a little concerned that his acquisition could block Mycal Jones from any sort of rapid advancement.
Tim Collins is the last player in the deal, a left-handed pitcher who likes to post K-rates in the double digits. This year he's striking out 15.3 guys per nine innings at double-A. He throws a fastball 92 to 94 mph and mixes in a great curveball and change-up combo. I'll say this for Frank Wren, he likes to have other clubs throw in hard-throwing lefties in these trades (Mike Dunn anyone).
The Braves made themselves a really good trade. They got rid of two players they didn't seem to want anymore and acquired a veteran shortstop with post-season experience for their pennant run, as well as two potentially useful minor leaguers. This was a win-now trade, and a preemptive strike on the rest of the National League East. The Braves can now boast to the Phillies and the Mets that they will open the second half of the season with three players that haven't been in their starting lineup for weeks -- Gonzalez, Jason Heyward, and Nate McLouth.
This is a move the Braves have to make if they're given the opportunity. They upgrade the weakest position in their lineup, and they didn't even give up any prospects... just the opposite, they added prospects. Even if Yunel goes on to success in Toronto (and I hope he does), this trade should not be viewed poorly, because much like Jeff Francoeur, it didn't seem like Escobar would succeed in Atlanta.