Cliff Pennington has been the starting shortstop in Oakland for the majority of the season and has been atrocious. In 80 games, Pennington is hitting .201/.263/.287 with three home runs, 16 RBI and 30 runs, and he has a WAR of 0.3. Brandon Hicks has accounted for the other 11 games at shortstop this season and has been even worse, hitting .147 with just five hits.
The A’s are only a half game out of the Wild Card at the moment and are in no way out of the playoff hunt just yet. If Oakland is going to make a run at a postseason berth, their production at shortstop needs to improve dramatically.
Enter Yunel Escobar.
CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler writes that Toronto is interested in dealing Escobar in order to make room for prospect Adeiny Hechavarria and that Oakland has shown interest. Knobler’s colleague, Jon Heyman, confirms that the Jays are looking to trade the 29-year-old shortstop.
Last season in Toronto Escobar put on a show, hitting .290/.369/.413 with 11 home runs, 48 RBI and 77 runs. He walked 10.3 percent of the time and struck out just 11.9 percent while compiling a career-high 4.3 WAR. He’s having a down year this season, which could mean that last year was a fluke and possibly that Oakland could get him cheap.
It seems that Toronto is set at the shortstop position for the future, so there really isn’t anything that’s keeping him north of the border. As Knobler mentions, Toronto could sell Escobar even if they don’t become full sellers towards the upcoming trade deadline.
Although CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder feels that it wouldn’t be in Oakland GM Billy Beane’s best interest to buy at the trade deadline with hopes of making the playoffs, acquiring Escobar wouldn’t be a blockbuster deal requiring several top prospects to be included.
Based off of my speculation, Toronto could look for a starting pitcher in return—especially since nearly every starter has gotten Tommy John surgery this year—and maybe a mid-level minor league hitter.
Knobler had written previously that the A’s saw themselves as sellers and would look to deal Brandon McCarthy, but I think that’s way too much for just Escobar. If Toronto were to throw in another player, then it would be a more equal deal.
Even if the A’s don’t make the playoffs with Escobar at shortstop, they still could have him through 2015 since there are two team options on his contract for 2014 and 2015 of just $5 million per season. That could turn out to be a bargain for someone who plays solid defensively and hits atop your lineup.
It’s going to be an interesting week or so in Billy Beane’s office. Should he look for make a run at the postseason, Escobar should be one of the guys that he seriously pursues.