Yunel Escobar is the main player Alex Anthopoulos acquired when he dealt Alex Gonzalez away. Anthopoulos had stated that his plan to build (not rebuild) the Toronto Blue Jays is to get young, controllable players—players whose salary we can control for several years.
When we got rid of Gonzalez, we got rid of a player who is old, whose salary we cannot control beyond next year, and who is having a career year. I have already written why this trade works out great for the Blue Jays, so let's not go there.
Instead, let's look at the fact that we can only keep Gonzalez cheaply for one more year; after that, if he keeps up this torrid pace, he will command a much higher salary.
Escobar, on the other hand, is a player whose rights we control for three more years. This means that we can sign him to a contract similar to Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, a small amount of money now with potential for big money later. The thing is we are in the Yankees' and Red Sox' division, so we cannot spend as much as them, but we can control these younger players and how much they make.
If we control their salaries, then we can keep saving the money needed to get more top-flight prospects into our system whose salary we can also control, so by the time these guys are being paid big money we have other cheap rookies to offset the cost. In a division that spends so much money, this could be the only way to compete. Kudos to Anthopoulos for doing this.
One of Billy Beane's most brilliant techniques was smart drafting and getting rid of players as they are about to come to contract years for lots of prospects. Anthopoulos decided he does not need to get rid of his players. Instead, he can structure their contracts to keep them in Toronto for the prime of their careers. Rich teams like the Yankees can have them when they're old—like say, 35. This could be Moneyball Anthopoulos style.
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