A couple days ago, I tried to dispell rumors that the Braves were looking to shop Yunel Escobar. Turns out I was wrong, the shortstop (and JoJo Reyes) were sent to Toronto for Alex Gonzalez and a handful of minor leaguers.
This was a stupid trade.
Toronto gets one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball for three years of club control without giving up all that much. Sure, Yunel is known as a head case, but he’s also known for having an incredibly high ceiling and boatloads of talent. His power numbers haven’t been there this year (0 home runs), but he’s shown the ability to put the ball into the seats and he’s got the ability to hit for a decent average.
The trade no doubt signals Escobar as one of the biggest busts in Atlanta sports history. He was once regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball, but his style of play clashed with Bobby Cox and many of those in the Braves front office.
On the other hand, people are already praising Gonzalez as an experienced player with a professional demeanor. From a clubhouse angle, the Braves have to feel good about his presence. I’m not totally sure how he’ll function in this lineup, but he’s an improvement over what the Braves were currently getting out of Escobar.
I’m concerned about Gonzalez’ ability to get on base. First base is a foreign concept to Gonzalez. He’s got an abysmal .261 BB/K ratio. But he’s hitting a .259 which is an improvement over Yunel’s .238. His 17 home runs are a nice addition as well. Still, this offense has been predicated on seeing a lot of pitches, wearing guys down, and getting on base… three things Gonzalez hasn’t really been adept at doing. Say what you will about Yunel’s lack of power, his 37 walks indicate he saw a lot of pitches and worked a lot of counts.
The other concern for me: the future. This was very much a “right now” move by Frank Wren and the front office. Gonzalez will help them in the short term and will be under team control for next season as well. However, with an aging Chipper Jones at third and a guy at short stop that isn’t a spring chicken, the Braves may need to replace that entire half of the infield within the next two years and there aren’t a lot of internal candidates to do it.