Friday, July 1, 2016



By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer -

Author’s Note: The following player data was pulled via FanGraphs on June 19th, 2016.

To start off the trade candidate series let’s take a look at one of our most valuable trade pieces Yunel Escobar.

Here is a snapshot of Yunel’s offensive efforts, by handedness, year-to-date and over his career:

 photo Escobar1_zpswgvddj1m.png

Clearly Escobar is flat out destroying left-handed pitching. In fact he’s doing such a good job against them that he is likely putting himself on the radar of a lot of projected playoff teams due to the fact that there are many high quality left-handed starters on those contending squads (Lester, Bumgarner, Gonzalez, Hamels, et. al.).

Here is Yunel’s On-Base Percentage (OBP) numbers, by handedness, year-to-date and over his career:

 photo Escobar2_zpsss7nzdcn.png

This graph further highlights Escobar’s dominance against LHP but it also shows how well he gets on base versus RHP. His ability to make contact and put himself on-base makes him a very valuable lead-off or 2-hole hitter.

When the Angels traded for Yunel the Nationals picked up $1.5MM of his 2016 $7MM salary when they moved him. This means Escobar has approximately $2.7MM left on his contract for the remainder of this year and there is a team option available for 2017 priced at $7MM with a $1MM buyout.

This makes him not only an affordable trade target but one that can easily be traded or dismissed if the acquiring team doesn’t have a continuing need or use for him on their roster.

Escobar’s trade deadline value is not dissimilar to what Howie Kendrick’s value was when the Angels traded him during the 2014-2015 offseason.

Howie, who was a slightly better player than Yunel, played 2B and had one year left of team control whereas Escobar plays 3B and has one and a half years of team control at a similar total contract value.

This means the Angels should be looking for an Andrew Heaney like return, i.e. netting a higher quality pitching or position prospect that is MLB or near-MLB ready or two or more mid-tier prospects.

To better understand which teams are potential suitors for Yunel’s services we need to identify what offensive production, in terms of wRC+, they have received from their 3B position year-to-date.

It should be noted at this point that Escobar could potentially play 2B or LF but that seems remote. For the purposes of this discussion we will make the assumption that potential trade suitors will want and use him at the hot corner, only, but the possibility exists that another team might utilize him differently.

The table below presents wRC+, from the 3B position, for the teams that currently project to record 79 or more wins based on FanGraphs run differentials by the 2016 Projected Full Season table in the preamble article and have a wRC+ that is less than Escobar’s wRC+ of 118:

 photo Escobarv1_zps9clkw4ej.png

One item we haven’t taken into consideration yet is defense. Despite being a good defensive shortstop for many years the move to 3B has been rocky for Yunel and, based on FanGraphs defensive numbers, he has been a bit below average at the hot corner.

Looking at the table above there are three additional filters we can apply:

1)  A potential acquiring team needs to see Escobar’s offense as a clear upgrade

2)  If the potential buyer already has a good defensive 3B they are less likely to sacrifice defense for offense

3) Certain teams have had injuries to their regular 3B this year or have had below replacement level players at the position for a period of time negatively impacting the above number and may not really need an upgrade

If you apply those lines of logic you can likely eliminate the Tigers, Marlins, Rangers, Nationals, Dodgers, Red Sox, and White Sox from the trade suitor candidate pool.

That leaves the Mets, Royals, Indians, Yankees, Astros, and Giants as teams that appear to have a real need to upgrade offensively at the hot corner. Let’s examine each case further to determine who is really a match.

Mets

Primary Need(s): 3B, LF, and possibly 1B
Secondary Need(s): LH Starter and RH Reliever

Unfortunately for the Mets their team captain David Wright recently reinjured his neck and could potentially be out for an extended period of time or even, God forbid, permanently. The team announced he will have surgery on June 16, 2016.

This has forced the Mets to put the struggling Wilmer Flores in at the hot corner during Wright’s absence. Flores is almost assuredly not the long term solution the Metropolitans want or need at third making them a potential suitor for the Angels.

The Mets did recently sign former player Jose Reyes to a Minor League deal but nothing is guaranteed with him and New York may still want to improve and retain him as depth.

Offense is the Mets primary need and Escobar could certainly help them in that department. They could use a more stable corner outfielder and better production with Duda out at 1B.

On the pitching side they have their starting 3-man playoff rotation with Harvey as their ace kicker. If the Mets want they can try to bring in a left-handed pitcher to better balance their staff but it would be a luxury move not a necessity and possibly even impractical.

Update (06/29): As stated in the initial article, things can change in an instant. Both Matz and Syndergaard have been experiencing elbow issues so the Mets have to be nervous about their rotation right now which may (or may not) create an additional opportunity here for the Angels.

Their bullpen, filled with good two-way arms, is formidable and can shut down LHH’s hard but they could probably use at least one more right-handed reliever in the middle or back-end of their bullpen to provide balance.

Mets Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, RHP Huston Street, RHP Joe Smith, and/or RHP Fernando Salas Update (06/29): LHP C.J. Wilson and LHP Hector Santiago

Angels Likely Target(s): AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini, A+ Luis Guillorme, AAA RHP Seth Lugo, AAA OF Brandon Nimmo, A- C Ali Sanchez, AAA LHR Josh Smoker, and/or A+ RHP Chris Flexen

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Mets for AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini and A+ SS Luis Guillorme.

- Mets take on Yunel’s full remaining $2.7MM salary

- Cecchini is a quality RHH 2B prospect with good plate discipline, on-base skills, and above average 2B defense

- Guillorme is a long-term replacement for Simmons and is currently considered the best defensive SS in the Minors

2) Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar and RHR Joe Smith to the Mets for AAA 2B Gavin Cecchini, AAA RHP Seth Lugo, and A- C Ali Sanchez

-  Angels absorb both Escobar’s and Smith’s remaining 2016 salaries ($2.7MM and $2.6MM respectively)

- See above for notes about Cecchini
- Lugo is a quality back-end starter or could turn into high leverage reliever
- Sanchez is a 19 year old long-term prospect that is already displaying excellent defense and a plus throwing arm

Royals

Primary Need(s): 3B, Frontline (Two-way) Starter or LH Middle Rotation Starter
Secondary Need(s): Back-End Closer Type or RH Middle Reliever

Recently the Royals 3B Mike Moustakas suffered an ACL tear that has shut him down for the remainder of the season.

Before this injury the Royals wouldn’t have been a likely suitor considering the fact that Moustakas plays above average defense. Now, though, this event has created a potential opportunity for the Angels to strike a deal that sends Yunel to the defending World Champions.

Cheslor Cuthbert currently mans the hot corner but Escobar is a veteran player with better, proven production and he fits well into their current contact-type lineup either at the top of the order or possibly out of the #5, or #6, hole.

The Royals are ranked 20th in wRC+ (94) and 17th in OBP (.318) so Yunel would most certainly impact their ability to score runs without overly impacting their defensive game. Escobar isn’t a big home run hitter so Kauffman stadium will play well with his contact and on-base abilities.

Yunel’s short, controllable contract is perfect for a small market team like the Royals who could flip him in trade in the offseason, exercise his team option in order to flip Moustakas and then give Cuthbert another year of development in 2017, or simply not exercise the option and pay his meager buyout.

Finally the Angels ability, if they choose, to absorb Escobar’s 2016 salary makes them an attractive trade partner to a small market team like the Royals. It could allow the Royals to make further upgrades in other areas of need without being overly restricted by team payroll.

The only real roadblock to a trade is if the Royals suddenly slide hard in the standings and don’t think they can effectively compete.

Royals Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, LHP C.J. Wilson, LHP Hector Santiago, RHR Huston Street, RHR Joe Smith, and/or RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Target(s): AAA RHP Kyle Zimmer, AAA RHP Miguel Almonte, A+ LHP Foster Griffin, AA 1B Ryan O’Hearn, AA OF Bubba Starling, AAA 3B Hunter Dozier, AA LHP Matthew Strahm, AA RHP Pedro Fernandez, AA LHP Eric Skoglund, AA RHP Glenn Sparkman, A+ RHP Josh Staumont, OF Reymond Fuentes, AA RHP Alec Mills, AAA OF Jorge Bonifacio, A SS Marten Gasparini

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Royals for AA RHP Alec Mills and AA LHP Eric Skoglund

- Angels take on Yunel’s remaining $2.7MM 2016 salary
- Mills is a near-ready MLB starter with #2 or #3 upside due to his excellent control
- Skoglund is a little further away than Mills but he’s a lefty with mid-rotation upside also due to his excellent control

2)  Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar and LHP Hector Santiago to the Royals for AA RHP Alec Mills, AA LHP Matthew Strahm, and AAA OF Jorge Bonifacio

- Angels take on Yunel’s remaining $2.7MM and Hector’s remaining $2.5MM 2016 salaries
- Mills is as noted above
- Strahm is another near-ready MLB prospect with mid-rotation upside due to excellent control
- Bonifacio is a power type hitter but is limited mostly to LF (or DH) due to a fringe throwing arm and defensive skills

Indians

Primary Need(s): Corner OF
Secondary Need(s): 3B and Middle Relief

In the offseason the Indians went out and signed Juan Uribe to a $4MM contract to play and platoon at 3B with Jose Ramirez, the teams super utility player.

Typically Uribe puts up a better slash line than he has so far this season (.235/.289/.371) resulting in a meager 75 wRC+ vs. a career 86 wRC+. Over the last two weeks he has improved but it may raise more questions than answers because now the Indians front office is not sure if it is real correction or not.

What Juan has done is play good defense at the hot corner which is the primary reason he was brought in to play for the Tribe.

When it was determined Brantley couldn’t play the Indians decided to move Ramirez to LF and leave Uribe full time at 3B. Defensively Juan is a good choice but offensively he has left a lot to be desired this year. ZiPS projection system sees potential mild improvement but it might not be enough for an offensively challenged Cleveland lineup.

Frankly it seems that the Indians aren’t an ideal trade partner. Kipnis and Lindor are set at their positions so in order to replace Uribe the Tribe would have to trade or designate him for assignment and expose him to waivers which is less than ideal.

So unless the Angels have a strong desire to take Uribe’s contract back in trade to facilitate a deal the two teams don’t line up well in a Yunel Escobar-based trade.

Indians Likely Target(s): OF Kole Calhoun

Angels Likely Target(s): If Calhoun is actually in play (the author does not believe he is or should be but if he were the Indians would be a trade suitor that is on the short list) then one of AA OF Bradley Zimmer or AA OF Clint Dozier would be the centerpiece

Trade Scenario(s):

None that make sense involving Yunel Escobar

Yankees

Primary Need(s): Offense
Secondary Need(s): None

When the Yankees signed Chase Headley to a 4 year deal before 2015 they couldn’t have predicted the precipitous descent he’s experienced since.

Although Headley has experienced some BABIP issues this year it can’t fully explain his contact and power issues. Just as worse his elite defense at 3B has fallen off some and he’s merely just above average now based on FanGraphs ‘Defense’ metric (although the stat should be taken with a grain of salt).

Chase’s wRC+ of 89 is clearly sub-par but he has shown signs of improvement, as of late, but it might be too little, too late, for the 2016 Yankees.

Realistically the Yankees are strong in pitching but their offense is abysmal. There is still nearly a month of pre-trade deadline baseball left to play so they could suddenly surge and become relevant in the playoff race.

When examining the Yankees they don’t align well in a Yunel Escobar-based scenario.

Headley basically plays 3B on an exclusive basis. He’s under contract for 3 more years at $13MM per season making him difficult to move without the Yankees eating some of his salary.

Chase isn’t the best fit for the Angels and so the Yankees would have to bring a third team into the trade just to make it work creating more logistical difficulties.

Finally the Yankees farm system is thin in the upper levels and the Angels, if they follow a retooling course for 2018, would likely have trouble matching up in a trade.

Yankees Likely Trade Target(s): None unless they are making a 3-way trade where the Yankees move a player out and one of ours in

Angels Likely Trade Target(s): AAA OF Mason Williams, AAA OF Aaron Judge, AA 2B Tyler Wade, and AA LHP Jordan Montgomery

Trade Scenario(s):

 None that make sense involving Yunel Escobar

Giants

The Giants are not dissimilar to the Dodgers in that they have a 3B who performed well last year but is failing on the offensive side of the game since the start of the year. Additionally, he’s also, currently, sporting a walking boot for an Achilles injury that will keep him out until mid to late July.

Matt Duffy, even before the injury, seemed to have hit the proverbial sophomore slump as he is sporting a wRC+ of 81 while playing above average defense at the hot corner. 

Peripheral indicators point to a bad BABIP issue:

 photo Escobarv2_zps4jnbisca.png

Matt is a young player in the Majors who might be struggling to make adjustments which is not uncommon in your 2nd year of Major League experience.

If this is how the Giants front office feels about the situation or if the injury lingers and further impacts Matt’s play they might want to bring in a veteran like Yunel to bridge the gap during a playoff run, making the Giants a possible suitor, based on need. As the end of July approaches the Giants will likely reevaluate Duffy and make a decision.

This is why a lot of trade deadline deals happen closer to the actual deadline because teams want to make sure that they have exhausted all of the options they started the year with before making a deal that costs them in terms of money, players, or prospects.

In the end, the odds, at first glance, of a Giants deal seems lower than the Royals or Mets. San Francisco would certainly improve against left-handed pitching and wouldn’t lose much, if anything, against right-handed pitching although defense would go down a bit at the hot corner. As stated above, many of the teams that are likely playoff-bound are LHH-heavy so Yunel has a lot of appeal especially to teams in the National League and in the American League East.

Giants Likely Trade Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, LHP C.J. Wilson, LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Huston Street, and RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Trade Target(s): AA 2B Christian Arroyo, AA LHP Andrew Suarez, AA RHP Tyler Beede, A+ RHP Phil Bickford, A+ 1B Chris Shaw, A+ RHP Jordan Johnson, AAA RHP Clayton Blackburn, OF Jarrett Parker, AAA LHP Adalberto Mejia, AA RHR Chase Johnson, A RHP Michael Santos, AA RHR Ray Black, AAA LHR Steven Okert, AAA RHP Joan Gregorio, and A+ RHR Ian Gardeck

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Giants in exchange for AA 2B Christian Arroyo

- Angels absorb Escobar’s remaining $2.7MM 2016 salary
- Arroyo, the Giants #1 prospect, could best be described as the ‘Kole Calhoun’ of middle infielders meaning he does everything above average but nothing spectacularly well

2) Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar to the Giants in exchange for A+ RHP Jordan Johnson and A+ 1B Chris Shaw

- Angels absorb Escobar’s remaining $2.7MM 2016 salary
- Jordan, a potential middle rotation option, has a low to mid 90’s fastball with good control
- Shaw is a young and talented potential replacement for Pujols

3) Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar and RHR Huston Street to the Giants in exchange for AAA RHP Joan Gregorio, AA LHP Adalberto Mejia, and A RHP Michael Santos

- Angels absorb Escobar’s and Street’s remaining $2.7MM and $4MM salaries

- Gregorio has a mid-90’s fastball, plus slider and plus change up and has a ceiling of a #2 or #3 starter or as an elite reliever

- Mejia is a lefty with good control, a low 90’s fastball, average slider and plus change up with a ceiling as a #3 or #4 starter

- Santos is a young projectable righty who currently pitches in the low 90’s with a nice four-seam and two-seam fastball, plus curveball, and average change up that has a ceiling of a mid-rotation type

4) Angels trade 3B Yunel Escobar, RHR Fernando Salas, and LHP C.J. Wilson to the Giants in exchange for RHP Matt Cain, AA 2B Christian Arroyo, AA LHP Andrew Suarez, AA LHP Adalberto Mejia, and AA RHR Chase Johnson

- Angels absorb Escobar’s remaining $2.7MM 2016 salary
- Giants take on Wilson’s and Salas’ remaining $10MM and $1.2MM 2016 salaries
- Angels take on Matt Cain’s remaining $10.5MM 2016 and $21MM 2017 salary
- Giants send $7.5MM in 2018 to cover Cain’s buyout or MLB salary that year
- Angels take on significant 2017 salary but gain additional prospects

Astros

Houston is better positioned than the Yankees to potentially make a run back into relevance in the A.L. West and they have begun to do just that.

If the Astros manage to climb the ladder they might wind up considering an upgrade at 3B over the current platoon of Luis Valbuena and Marwin Gonzalez.

The first sticking point here is that trading Escobar to the Astros is a transaction within the division which some GM’s are reluctant to do especially if the player in question has more than one year of team control left.

That isn’t a show stopper if Billy Eppler believes he’s getting the right return back in trade but you’d imagine that he’d raise the asking price in that situation.

More importantly if the Astros simply adhered to a strict platoon here with Valbuena hitting against RHP and Gonzalez against LHP they’d probably generate a combined wRC+ of about 105 with average defense.

It then becomes a question of whether or not Yunel is really a significant upgrade over that platoon and there’s a case to be made that it may not be not to mention the Astros might just end up promoting Alex Bregman to play the hot corner.

The likelihood of an Escobar trade to the Astros is low unless something changes between now and the trade deadline. Yunel would be a dynamic presence in the #1 or #2 spot in their lineup either hitting leadoff or right behind Altuve and in front of Correa.

The Astros in reality don’t have a severe, pressing need and the Angels probably have better trade suitor options so this is probably a long shot.

Astros Likely Trade Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, LHP C.J. Wilson, and LHR Jose Alvarez

Angels Likely Trade Target(s): AA RHP Francis Martes, AAA RHP Joe Musgrove, AA OF Derek Fisher, 2B/OF Tony Kemp, AA RHP David Paulino, RHR Michael Feliz, AAA OF Jon Kemmer, AA OF Teoscar Hernandez, AAA RHP Brady Rodgers, AAA OF Andrew Aplin, and/or AAA SS/2B Nolan Fontana

Trade Scenario(s):

None that make sense in a Yunel Escobar-based trade

Conclusion

Based on the current run differential FanGraphs standings the only teams that make some measure of sense, right now as trade suitors for Yunel Escobar, are the Royals, Mets (and the Mets might fill their need by signing Jose Reyes to play 2B and move Neil Walker over to 3B), and the Giants.
 
This pool of suitors could, of course, change as baseball approaches the trade deadline. Teams could become relevant in the standings or experience injuries that force them to reshuffle, creating a need for Yunel’s services.
 
At this point, as Angelswin.com member TroutBaseball pointed out here, the Royals seem like a likely trade partner for Escobar. They have some interesting pitching prospects like Alec Mills who are basically MLB ready and would fit into an Angels retooling plan towards a championship run in 2018. The only problem with the Royals is will they be able to remain within striking distance in the playoff race?
 
Despite the Mets need they seem like they are heading in a different direction with the Minor League signing of Jose Reyes and all of the chatter about Cuban Yulieski Gurriel, so the Giants seem like the next likely candidate at this time and they have a plethora of pitching prospects and an interesting 2B candidate in Christian Arroyo if they are willing to deal him (and they probably are with Crawford and Panik up the middle under long term control).
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