July 2: While a deal sending Escobar to the ChiSox was in the works recently, Heyman tweets that multiple other clubs jumped into the mix this week and began showing interest, which has slowed the process. An eventual Escobar trade still feels inevitable, given his status as a pending free agent on MLB’s worst club.
June 28: The White Sox and Diamondbacks have been discussing a potential Eduardo Escobar deal for the past week, and it seems as though talks could be accelerating. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, who initially reported the talks between the two sides, suggests in his latest notes column that the D-backs are “on the verge” of starting a sell-off that will begin with an Escobar trade. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets this morning that the two sides have made “progress” in a trade that would send Escobar from the D-backs to the ChiSox — the organization that originally signed Escobar out of Venezuela back in 2006.
Escobar is a sensible target for a Sox club that has lost Nick Madrigal for the season and now faces a notable hole at second base. The 32-year-old Escobar has spent more time at third base in recent years but has logged 227 innings at second base in 2021 and carries 849 career innings at the position. He’s also emerged as a reliable source of power and, over the past six weeks, been on a tear at the plate.
The switch-hitting Escobar fell into a considerable slump in early May, with his OPS bottoming out at .655 on May 14. In 152 plate appearances since that time, he’s mashed at a .306/.342/.563 clip with 10 homers, five doubles and a triple. That hot streak has boosted his season batting line to a respectable .253/.298/.481 and bumped his 2021 home run total up to 17. Escobar’s walk rate is down to 6.1 percent — a drop of some note from its 8.2 percent peak in 2018 — and he’s striking out at a career-high 22 percent clip. That’s still below the league average in today’s brand of strikeout-centric baseball, however.
Escobar is earning $7.5MM in 2021 — the final season of a three-year, $21MM contract extension he signed with Arizona in lieu of his first trip to the free agent market back in 2018. There’s still about $3.9MM yet to be paid out on that salary between now and season’s end. While rental players aren’t always ideal for contending clubs, it’s a rather sensible route for the Sox to take with regard to their infield needs. Yoan Moncada is locked in as the long-term answer at third base in Chicago, and the White Sox expect Madrigal back in 2022.
If a deal does ultimately get pushed across the finish line, Escobar would figure to be the first of multiple additions for a White Sox team that is in first place despite several injuries to key contributors. Eloy Jimenez hasn’t played in a game this season after suffering a ruptured pectoral tendon during a Spring Training game, and Luis Robert has been out since early May with a Grade 3 hip flexor strain. Fellow outfielders Adam Eaton and Adam Engel, meanwhile, are on the shelf owing to hamstring strains — the second of the season in Engel’s case.
As for the D-backs, Escobar is one of many veteran pieces who could change hands between now and the July 30 trade deadline. Asdrubal Cabrera, another pending free agent, seems all but assured to move. Outfielder David Peralta and right-hander Merrill Kelly are both affordably signed through the 2022 season. Backup catcher Stephen Vogt and reliever Joakim Soria aren’t having their best seasons, but they’re both impending free agents with solid track records and reasonable $3.5MM salaries. Ketel Marte, of course, is the Diamondbacks’ premier trade chip, as he’s controlled all the way through the 2024 season. That said, he’s also dealing with a hamstring issue and is undergoing additional imaging today as the team continues to evaluate that injury.