Yunel Escobar Rumors

AL East Notes: Davis, Yankees, Beckett, Escobar

The Angels are talking to the Rays about Wade Davis and other available pitchers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. James Shields has drawn interest from Los Angeles, but Davis might represent an alternative for the Angels’ bullpen or rotation. Here are the latest notes from the AL East…

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post can’t imagine the Yankees trading for Mark Reynolds or Chone Figgins even with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list. However, an AL executive said there’s “zero chance” Eric Chavez can replace Rodriguez on a daily basis without breaking down. The Yankees are expected to consider available third basemen in the coming week.
  • The Red Sox have fielded some exploratory inquiries on Josh Beckett, but the calls amount to preliminary check-ins at this point, Rob Bradford of reports. There’s “nothing close” regarding a potential deal, according to Bradford. Beckett, who can veto any trade with his ten and five rights, does not interest the Rangers.
  • Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar remains a possible option for the A’s, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. However, the shortstop says he likes playing in Toronto and doesn’t want to be traded, according to Slusser.

AL East Notes: Lester, Blue Jays, Aramis

We checked in on the AL East this morning, but with less than a week remaining before the trade deadline, the rumors don’t stop coming. Here’s the latest…

A’s Rumors: Rollins, Hanley, Drew, Escobar

The A's were nine games below .500 in mid-June, but they're now 51-44 following an impressive six-week stretch that's positioned them as contenders for a playoff berth. Here are the latest A’s-related notes and rumors…

  • Rollins is not currently an option for the A's, Slusser reports. Slusser hears from two people who aren't convinced Rollins would approve a deal to Oakland (Twitter links).
  • The A’s pursued Hanley Ramirez aggressively before the Marlins sent him to Los Angeles, Danny Knobler of reports. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle confirms that the A’s were “very much in on” Ramirez (Twitter link). The Marlins recently offered Oakland a “sweet deal” that would have sent Ramirez to the A's for a couple of minor leaguers and enough cash to cover half of Ramirez’s contract, Knobler writes. But the A’s held off on the deal, and the Dodgers agreed to take on all of Ramirez’s salary.
  • The A’s are still looking to add, Knobler reports. They have been scouting Stephen Drew, have had interest in Yunel Escobar, and have considered the possibility of bringing Oakland native Jimmy Rollins back to the Bay Area.

Heyman On Escobar, Bourjos, Sanchez

The Phillies intend to offer Cole Hamels an extension worth approximately $130MM over six years, Jon Heyman of reported earlier today. Here are the rest of his rumors…

  • Heyman keeps hearing that the Blue Jays want to trade Yunel Escobar (Twitter link). The Braves, Escobar’s former team, have little depth at shortstop following injuries to Andrelton Simmons and Jack Wilson, but they’re not interested in Escobar.
  • The Angels are willing to trade outfielder Peter Bourjos in some deals, Heyman reports (Twitter link). The 25-year-old has a .243/.298/.360 batting line and won't be arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season.
  • The Angels are looking at Hamels, Zack Greinke and potentially available relievers as they aim to improve their pitching staff, Heyman adds.
  • Heyman keeps hearing the Marlins could trade Anibal Sanchez (Twitter link). The Braves have expressed interest in Sanchez, who’s earning $8MM in his final season before free agency, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (on Twitter).
  • The Dodgers are looking in a variety of places for offense, Heyman reports (on Twitter). He suggests Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, Corey Hart and Chase Headley are all possible fits, but says Alfonso Soriano is a no-go.

Athletics Interested In Shortstop Help

Billy Beane would “love” to acquire a shortstop who could provide the streaking Athletics with an offensive boost, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The A’s, who aren’t presently in serious trade talks with any teams, could pursue Yunel Escobar or Stephen Drew

The Blue Jays are willing to trade Escobar, Rosenthal reports. Shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria has convinced Toronto’s decision makers that he can play in the Major Leagues, so the Blue Jays could listen to offers on Escobar, Rosenthal writes. The 29-year-old Escobar has a .251/.295/.339 batting line and earns $5MM per season through 2013.

The A’s have also tried to upgrade over the slumping Brandon Inge, Rosenthal reports. Here's a look at potentially available shortstops and third basemen.

Blue Jays Looking To Add Players

The Blue Jays, now 40-40 and in fifth place in the American League East, are looking to add to their team as the July 31st trade deadline approaches. General manager Alex Anthopoulos told Shi Davidi of that he’s discussing ways of making this year’s team better.

"Every dialogue I’m trying to have now, it’s all about trying to improve the 2012 product, that isn’t going to change," he said. "I’m active in having talks, that doesn’t mean anything is going to get done, but definitely all the trade dialogue I’m handling right now is all about making the 2012 team better."

Anthopoulos told Davidi the Blue Jays have talked about some potential short-term additions, including players headed for free agency. The GM added that this year’s Blue Jays team has a stronger core than in previous years.

Only three MLB teams have out-scored Toronto, but the Blue Jays could use pitching reinforcements after losing three starters to the disabled list and adding Carlos Villanueva, Aaron Laffey and Brett Cecil to their rotation. The Blue Jays are unsurprisingly interested in adding starting pitching depth.

Two scouts told Danny Knobler of that Anthopoulos should sell this summer. One scout suggested Casey Janssen could become a trade chip. Meanwhile, a rival official said the Blue Jays are “souring” on Yunel Escobar and Knobler suggests the Blue Jays could decide to trade the shortstop just one year after extending him.

Quick Hits: Cabrera, Escobar, Astros

Links for Thursday, as we await a particularly light schedule of games…

  • Melky Cabrera and the Giants haven’t made progress toward a long-term deal,’s Buster Olney reports.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports wonders if the Blue Jays could trade Yunel Escobar when prospect Adeiny Hechavarria gets the call to the Major Leagues. The A’s, Mariners and Pirates could be positioned to trade pitching for Escobar, Morosi writes. Personally, I doubt the Blue Jays trade Escobar in the near future.
  • Houston GM Jeff Luhnow told's Jerry Crasnick that it'll take more than one draft to add talent throughout the Astros organization. "I feel like there's a lot of pressure to do it in one draft," Luhnow said. "That's not going to happen." The Astros have the first overall selection on Monday.
  • Any bonus that exceeds $100K counts against a team’s bonus limit, even if it goes to a non-drafted free agent, Jim Callis of Baseball America tweets.

Cafardo On Phillies, Blanton, Lannan, Ramirez

In this morning's column, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe takes a look at some of the emerging storylines in the American League East.  In New York, Francisco Cervelli is set to be the backup catcher, but could become trade bait for the Yankees with Austin Romine knocking on the door.  The catching situation with Tampa Bay is also worth keeping an eye on as Jose Molina needs a backup.  The Rays could pick up Ivan Rodriguez or deal from their pitching surplus to fill the vacancy.  If they trade Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis, Cafardo writes that it would be for a catcher.  Here's more from Cafardo..

  • The Phillies are making it clear to teams that they would eat as much as $2MM of Joe Blanton’s $8MM deal in a trade.  Moving Blanton would allow the Phillies to have payroll flexibility and bump Kyle Kendrick into the No. 5 spot in the rotation.  Yesterday, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos scouted the Phillies game and left after Blanton's exit.
  • Meanwhile, the Nationals continue to dangle left-hander John Lannan.  The club is spreading word that the 27-year-old is available in a deal, particularly one for a center fielder.
  • The Braves are in need of a left field power bat and right-hander Jair Jurrjens could be the trade bait for one.
  • At some point, Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar will have to move to second base to make room for Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.  Escobar loves being a shortstop, so there is a bit of trepidation among some in the organization as to how he will accept this.
  • Meanwhile, many feel that the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez won't stay happy for long at third base and eventually will demand a trade.
  • With several teams in the market for a center fielder, Cafardo asked a National League scout if the Yankees would entertain a deal for Brett Gardner.  Gardner is currently slated to start in left field for the Yanks but a National League scout said that at some point the club might seek out a more traditional left field option.
  • The Red Sox are impressed with Chris Carpenter's live fastball but privately they are not happy with what they wound up getting in exchange for Theo Epstein.

NL East Notes: Chipper, Escobar, Werth, McKeon

Tim Hudson pitched eight shutout innings and hit a two-run homer to beat the Blue Jays in Yunel Escobar's return to Atlanta tonight. Here's the latest on the Braves and their NL East rivals… 

  • Chipper Jones told Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he never wanted Escobar to leave, "because the guy’s a good player." Jones suggests last summer's trade worked out well for both sides, since Escobar has matured into a better player and the Braves have the steady Alex Gonzalez. I examined Escobar's recent contract extension earlier today.
  • Bill Ladson of says free agent signing Jayson Werth has "brought a spark" to Washington and helped the Nationals to a respectable record. Werth has a .232/.332/.409 line with ten home runs in his first season in D.C. – not what the Nats were hoping for when they made a $126MM commitment to the outfielder last offseason. 
  • New Marlins manager Jack McKeon explained to Dave George of the Palm Beach Post why he returned to the bench as an 80-year-old skipper. "I don't need this job, but I love it, and I love the people I'm working for."
  • Hanley Ramirez might not love the person he's working for quite yet; McKeon benched Ramirez tonight after the shortstop showed up late to the ballpark.

Give & Take: The Yunel Escobar Extension

It's easy to call Yunel Escobar's two-year, $10MM extension a win for Toronto, but there's more to the deal than that. Here's a closer look at the give and take between the shortstop, who gets guaranteed money, and the Blue Jays, who get extended team control and potential savings through arbitration.

The Deal

Escobar earns $5MM in 2012, his second of three arbitration seasons (he’s coming from a $2.9MM salary in ’11). He earns the same $5MM salary in 2013, his third and final arbitration season. The Blue Jays then have two club options worth $5MM each for 2014 and 2015.

Yunel Escobar

What Kind Of Player Is Yunel Escobar?

Escobar is an above average shortstop, though his numbers aren't dazzling in any one category. He hits for average (.288 career mark) and walks (9.6% career walk rate) with occasional power (.401 career slugging percentage). Over the course of his five-year career, he has been a slightly above average defender, according to UZR.

But compare the 28-year-old Cuban to the average shortstop and you see why the Blue Jays had interest in keeping him around long-term. Escobar has a .280/.357/.428 batting line this year, considerably better than the .261/.316/.374 line the average MLB shortstop has managed.

Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter are the only shortstops who have produced more wins above replacement than Escobar since his 2007 rookie season. He has 14.7 WAR over the course of the past five seasons, including 1.9 so far this year (he's eighth among MLB shortstops so far in '11).

What’s In It For The Blue Jays

Escobar was under team control for 2012-13 before yesterday’s deal. With the options on the extension, the Blue Jays gain control of two additional years (2014-15), Escobar’s age-31 and 32 seasons. These options are the key to the deal; it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays making this move without at least one option. 

There are also possible secondary benefits for Toronto, starting with potential arbitration savings. If Escobar continues playing this well, he could have set himself up for $5MM or more in 2012 and $7MM or more in 2013. Now, the Jays can be sure that they won’t be paying Escobar exorbitant salaries in his last two arbitration years. 

Acquiring a shortstop, especially an above average one is never easy and the Blue Jays have assured themselves that they’ll have a solid to very good shortstop for two to four years. At some point between now and 2015, prospect Adeiny Hechavarria figures to be MLB ready, but it never hurts to have too many MLB caliber shortstops.

What The Blue Jays Give Up

The Blue Jays have guaranteed Escobar $10MM for 2012 and 2013, though there’s a chance he may not play well enough to earn that much through arbitration. An injury or a dropoff in production could have positioned Escobar for a lower salary or even made him a non-tender candidate, but the Blue Jays are now locked in at $5MM per season for 2012-13. 

Every extension is something of a gamble for the team and this one is no exception. However, GM Alex Anthopoulos said last summer that he believes position players are safer bets than their counterparts on the mound. “You look at the numbers, there’s certainly higher risk of injury [for a pitcher] relative to a position player,” he said. 

Though position players are generally safer investments than pitchers, Escobar’s double play partner, Aaron Hill, has missed significant time since signing his extension in 2008 and the Blue Jays declined to exercise their three-year option for Hill this spring.

What’s In It For Escobar

Escobar makes $2.9MM this year and had earned a little over $1MM as a Major Leaguer before this season. The $10MM guarantee dwarfs his previous career earnings and ensures he’ll have a substantial paycheck for two more years even if he gets injured or starts performing poorly.

What Escobar Gives Up

His ceiling for potential earnings through 2015 is considerably lower than it was a week ago and he has postponed his chance for a lucrative free agent contract. Though $10MM for his two arbitration years is reasonable, the options for 2014 and 2015 appear team friendly. Alexei Ramirez, who is in the same service class as Escobar, had his free agent years valued at $10MM when he signed an extension with the White Sox this spring. 

The Verdict

The Blue Jays gambled last summer, when they gave up three players to acquire Jo-Jo Reyes and Escobar, who had zero homers and a .238 batting average at the time of the trade. Not only was Escobar performing poorly, he appeared to have strained relationships with some Braves people, including manager Bobby Cox.

Anthopoulos' initial move worked and the Blue Jays are now investing in Escobar for the second time in 12 months. This time, however, they’re on considerably more familiar terms with the shortstop. Risk is a factor in every extension and Escobar has now assured himself of $10MM in income even if his production drops off. But if he continues playing at his current level, this deal will be solid for Toronto in 2012-13 and tremendous in 2014-15.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.