The recent trade between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays, headlined by shortstops Yunel Escobar and Alex Gonzalez, took the baseball world by surprise. For us Braves fans, this meant once again parting ways with a slick-fielding homegrown SS with even greater all-around potential under less than favorable conditions. Escobar was a polarizing figure to begin with, but his exit blew his place within the fanbase into an outright controversy. I’ve largely opted to sit on the sidelines as the debate raged here on Talking Chop, but I can’t do that anymore. This isn’t a great piece of literature or even all that good as far as sports journalism is concerned, but there were a few things that I wanted to get off of my chest sooner rather than later. This is just me, being the fan that I am, not stopping to shape this post into something more complete, balanced or stylish. Follow me below the fold for more, if you wish.
Since the beginning of 2007, Alex Gonzalez has a stat line of .256/.300/.437 (.737 OPS) in 1112 AB. Exclude 258 woeful plate appearances for the Reds in 2009, and those slash stats jump to .269/.311/.476 (.787 OPS) in 869 AB. Suddenly Gonzalez's 2010 - .259/.296/.497 (.793 OPS) in 328 AB - doesn't seem so outlandish anymore, does it? So, while Alex's HR total so far this season might be a fluke, his overall performance at the plate isn't likely to fall off a cliff should some of those homers turn into doubles in the future.
Moreover and for what it's worth, he currently ranks 7th in Major League Baseball in UZR (just one "run" behind Escobar in 3rd), and he comes in 3rd over the last two years combined (four "runs" better than Yunel in 8th). Even as he's aged, he's still a steady defender at a premium position at very least.
Finally, he's replacing a guy who's gone .238/.334/.284 (.618 OPS) in 261 AB so far this season, a line so pathetic that even shiny-but-inconsistent play at short couldn't overcome. He also managed to routinely infuriate one of baseball's most player-friendly managers and made few friends in an otherwise remarkably happy locker room. Moreover, he’s 27-years-old, so he's probably on the tail-end of his prime and likely already experienced his peak.
Everyone in the media sees this trade for what it was: a good gamble on the part of Toronto and a solid win-now move by the Atlanta. Some Braves fans, however, continue to overvalue their own players to the point of absurdity. Much like every other trade made by Frank Wren and some made more lately by Schuerholz, it'll get bashed by some until it finally pans out or no longer matters. Personally, I view it as a trade of limited repercussions. Yunel was never long for the Braves and we got both short and a potential long term replacements in a deal for him, plus an intriguing young relief pitcher already in the upper minors to boot. Ultimately, it'll likely be a forgettable trade and I hate that I've now put even this much time into it.
Thank you for indulging me by reading this rant. I mean no offense to anyone in particular, so I apologize in advance to anyone who takes any from this. I might not engage in the discussion to follow in the comments because I’d really like to move on from this now that the second half of the season is upon us, but feel free to continue the debate here with whomever else still feels the need to argue about it. I can only hope that it’s a little more sincere - quit quoting career numbers for Gonzalez that include 646 AB from the 90's and ignoring Yunel’s troublesome lack of power both this year and in the past - and please keep it civil. Thanks again, and as always, go Braves!