The Blue Jays acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar and pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes from the Braves for shortstop Alex Gonzalez and minor leaguers Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky, according to a team press release. The Jays designated Ronald Uviedo for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
The move comes as a big surprise, as Escobar was perhaps one of the more valuable commodities in the game when the 2009 season concluded. Just a few days ago, MLB.com's Mark Bowman wrote that the Braves "simply aren't willing to sell low on a guy who they still view as the game's top defensive shortstop." Escobar was worth over four wins last year, but his power has disappeared in 301 plate appearances this year. Escobar will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, so he'll be under the Jays' control through 2013. Escobar's attitude was a likely factor in the deal; Bowman wrote in June that "there's no doubt that Escobar's flamboyant approach to the game has continued to infuriate some members of the Braves organization." Back in February, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez went more in-depth on the attitude angle.
Gonzalez will replace Escobar as the Braves' starting shortstop as they enter the second half with a four game lead in the NL East. He doesn't get on base, but he's already hit 17 home runs on the season and continues to play strong defense. Gonzalez is owed another $1.23MM this year and has a $2.5MM club option for 2011. Braves GM Frank Wren told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "This trade improves our club for the second half of the season."
Reyes, a 25-year-old southpaw, has spent most of the season at Triple A. His strikeout and walk rates are strong in his fourth stint at the level, but he's had problems with home runs and hits. Baseball America regarded Reyes as the Braves' eighth-best prospect heading into the 2007 season, calling him a "thick-bodied lefthander who does a good job of keeping hitters off balance." He's dealt with injuries, including Tommy John surgery in '04.
Collins, a 20-year-old lefty, was ranked 19th among Blue Jays prospects by Baseball America heading into this season. The 5'7" southpaw "gets outs with a solid fastball that tops out at 93 mph and a true 12-to-6 curveball that he spins really well." Working in relief, Collins has a 15.3 K/9 in 43 Double A innings this year. Pastornicky, a 20-year-old shortstop, was ranked 17th. He's described as a player who "doesn't have flashy tools but gets the most out of what he has." In the best case, he'll become a line drive top of the order hitter with solid defense, indicates BA. As for Uviedo, the Jays had acquired him from the Pirates in the June Dana Eveland deal. BA described him as rail-thin and homer-prone heading into the '09 season, but praised his fastball and slider.
My take: this is certainly a win-now move for the Braves, who are confident Gonzalez will provide more over the next few months than Escobar would have. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, managed the rare feat of acquiring three-plus years of a shortstop with star potential without giving up much.