The first significant trade of the season's second half went down today. The Atlanta Braves sent beleaguered shortstop Yunel Escobar to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
The Braves also received left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes while the Blue Jays received two minor leaguers, shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and pitcher Tim Collins.
The trade spells the end of what was supposed to be a promising career for Escobar in Atlanta. Instead, the Braves used their homegrown product to land a veteran shortstop who is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. It was a significant upgrade for the Braves while the Blue Jays are left with what amounts to a reclamation project in a new organization and new city (and country).
Escobar hit .299 with 14 home runs, 76 RBI and an .812 OPS last season for Atlanta. 2010, however, has been a far cry from that production. In 75 games this season, Escobar is hitting just .238 with zero home runs, 19 RBI and a .334 on-base percentage.
Gonzalez, conversely, is enjoying a resurgent year. He has already hit 17 home runs and drove in 50 RBI in 85 games. Last season, Gonzalez hit .238 with only eight home runs and 41 RBI in 112 games split between Cincinnati and Boston.
Gonzalez brings a level of stability to the Braves. He is a 12-year big league veteran with a World Series ring, something many current Braves can lay claim to. Gonzalez may see his power numbers dip in the more expansive Turner Field, but he is a very solid hitter, strong defender and all-around heady ballplayer. Those descriptions are all a far cry from where Escobar was this season.
Simply, the Braves grew tired of Escobar's attitude. From outbursts in the dugout, to clashes with teammates (he recently got into a shouting match with Troy Glaus), to a general lack of hustle, Escobar played his way out of Atlanta. His demeanor showed the Atlanta front office that it could not count on him as the long term answer.
Escobar may find his groove again and turn things around in Toronto, but the trade itself showed the Braves weren't willing to gamble on the "when" and "if" of Escobar getting his head properly re-attached.