By Dave Feldman and Ian Kay
A decently sized trade went down on Wednesday, as the Braves and Blue Jays swapped shortstops. The mind-numbingly frustrating Yunel Escobar
heads to Toronto and the over-achieving Alex Gonzalez
will take his talents to Atlanta. Additionally, the Braves sent pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes
over the border, with Minor Leaguers Tim Collins
and Tyler Pastornicky
going the other way.
What the Jays got …
For owners still holding Escobar after a .238/28/0/19/5 first half, this trade provides a dash of hope on the horizon.
The 27-year-old was the 10th shortstop and 115th overall player drafted in Yahoo! leagues before the season, but currently ranks outside the position’s top-30. Basically, owners were expecting Elvis Andrus
or Alexei Ramirez
value but got Nick Punto
or Cesar Izturis
Or rather, owners got that (lack of) production until about mid-May and then dumped Escobar like third period French. He’s currently 45 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues.
A gander at Escobar’s peripheral stats shows few significant differences between this season and ’09, when he posted a .299/89/14/76/5 line and was fantasy’s eighth-most valuable shortstop. His strikeouts are down slightly, his walks are up and his batted ball rates are roughly the same.
So why the Rey Ordonez-esque numbers all of the sudden? Well for one, Escobar’s BABIP this year is .270, compared to a .316 career mark. For another, none of his fly balls have cleared the fence. His HR/FB percentages the last three years: 10.1, 9.1 and 7.9.
Trade or no trade, this is a man due for a serious luck reversal.
Not that the trade won’t help. The Braves scored two more runs than the Blue Jays in the season’s first half, but Toronto’s lineup blasted 66 more home runs and slugged 51 points higher in that span. Toronto also offers a better home ballpark for hitters, and Escobar will have the luxury of more games at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium and less Nationals Park and Citi Field.
Put together the luck factor and the change of scenery, and, I’m giving Escobar a “cautious buy” rating. For those of you familiar with the Homeland Security Advisory System color scale, Escobar would be Status Yellow: Elevated — significant risk of solid production.
I say he does something around .290 AVG 37 R, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 3 SB
the rest of the way and proves more valuable than Gonzalez, Marco Scutaro
and Ryan Theriot
in the second half.
Jo-Jo Reyes, the other piece going to Toronto in this deal, is far less interesting for mixed leaguers. The left-hander has a career 6.40 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and 128/98 K/BB ratio in 41 Major League appearances (37 starts). His Minor League K numbers are intriguing, but he’ll likely begin the second half in Triple-A and is only a spot-start option in deeper mixers if called up.
What the Braves got …
Leaving Canada and the friendly confines of the Rogers Centre along withthe power-hitting Blue Jays lineup should likely translate into diminished power production for Gonzalez, who was batting .259 with 17 homers and 50 RBIs at the break. But, hey, it’s not like you really expected him to hit 30 home runs this year, anyway. A lifetime .248 hitter, Gonzalez’s .259 average shouldn’t change too much with the change of scenery, but his likely drop in power production should relegate him to the bench or even waiver wire in most mixed-league formats.
Counterpoint: The trade of poutine for peaches should only help his waistline.
The big coup in this deal for Atlanta comes in a small package. Tim Collins is just adorable! The five-foot-seven, 155-pound Collins has been one of Toronto’s most eye-opening prospects this season, as the southpaw reliever posted a 2.51 ERA with a jaw-dropping 73/16 K/BB ratio over 43 innings for Double-A New Hampshire. The Braves have a keen eye for young pitching talent,as Collins will now join Arodys Vizcaino, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Randall Delgado in what is widely regarded as the most formidable collection of Minor League pitching prospects.
The 20-year-old Pastornicky was a fifth-round pick by the Jays in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and was batting 258 with 16 doubles, six home runs and 35 RBI in 77 games for Class A Dunedin. He’s stil a ways away from potentially making a Major League impact. I wish I could tell you more about him, but I can’t.