MLB Trade News: Yunel Escobar Traded for Alex Gonzalez

Ryan Vooris@ryanvoorisContributor IIIJuly 14, 2010

TORONTO - JULY 8: Alex Gonzalez #11 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a three run double against the Minnesota Twins during a MLB game at The Rogers Centre July 8, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays have swapped shortstops. 

Yunel Escobar moves north to Toronto and Alex Gonzalez comes to warmer weather in Atlanta.

This is a surprise trade considering Escobar's apparent worth to the Braves. Escobar is only in his fourth major league season and posted OPS+ of 118, 103, and 116 in his first three professional seasons. 

This season has been a different story.

Escobar has struggled mightily, hitting no home runs and producing a measly .618 OPS. His WAR, or wins above replacement, has dropped from 5.5 to 0.8. Escobar's outstanding defense is the only reason his WAR is not negative on the season.

The 27-year-old Escobar was dealt for Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez, 33, is having a career year in the American League. 

This is quite a departure from his career norm.

Gonzalez, prior to this season, never posted an OPS above the league average in 12 major league seasons. This season, Gonzalez has hit 17 home runs and sports an OPS+ of 112. 

Gonzalez is still not much of an offensive producer though.

He is only hitting .256 and has a paltry .296 on-base percentage. 

Escobar, despite his hitting woes, sports a .334 on-base percentage. 

Gonzalez, like Escobar, is a fantastic fielder, which combined with his power this season gives him a WAR of 2.7 thus far.

For the Braves there are three questions resulting from this trade—one short-term, two long-term.


Can Gonzalez maintain this pace?  

Gonzalez has only hit 20 or more home runs once in his career—2004 for the Florida Marlins

He hasn't produced an OPS over .700 since 2007. His previous best WAR was 1.9 in 2003. 

It is hard to believe that at age 33 Gonzalez has finally found a new approach at the plate. 

His .OBP and flyball/groundball ratio scream that he is an impatient hitter who has gotten lucky in Toronto this season.


Is Escobar washed up at 27?

It's much harder to figure this one out. 

He's been awful against righties and lefties this year, awful at home and away and terrible in April, May, and July. 

His June numbers were stronger, (.407 OBP) but he still had zero power. Players are suppose to reach their peaks in their late twenties. 

Escobar may be having an off-year, (which is a kind way to describe his offensive woes) but it's unlikely he's forgotten how to hit for power and drive the ball in the gap.


The Prospects

The Braves also acquired Toronto minor leaguers Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky.

Collins is an 20-year-old relief pitcher, presently sporting electric stuff in Double-A.  In only 42 innings, he's struck out 73 hitters. He has a 2.40 career ERA in nearly 200 minor league innings, all of them in relief.

His future looks bright as a back of the bullpen closer or setup man.

Pastornicky, also 20, is a speed demon with 108 stolen bases in three minor league seasons. 

At this point he's only reached high-A ball, has shown decent plate discipline (102 walks against 127 strikeouts) but almost no power (eight home runs in nearly 1,000 minor league at-bats.)  He's certainly a work in progress.

This trade is obviously a shot at catching lightning in a bottle with Gonzalez. 

He won't be a key part of the Braves' future (Gonzalez is a free agent). But if Gonzalez can somehow maintain his surprising power, he can certainly provide more production in the bottom of the Braves lineup than Escobar did.


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