Hooray a trade!
On Thursday, the Angels sent right-handed pitchers Trevor Gott (23) and Michael Brady (28) to the Washington Nationals for 33-year-old infielder Yunel Escobar. The move is Billy Eppler’s second trade for an infielder, this one filling a completely different need for the Halos.
Let’s start with what the Angels lost. Trevor Gott is an exciting arm that debuted last year with a 3.02 ERA and 27 strikeouts/16 walks in 47.2 IP. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and he pairs it with a sharp slider that has some potential. The big loss here is 5 years of control that Gott has to his name. With the two anchors in the Angels bullpen (Joe Smith and Huston Street) both on the wrong side of 30, the young arm of Gott was very valuable. Diving into his 2015 numbers a little bit more reveals that Gott may have been the product of some good luck. His 3.74 FIP is merely mediocre and he threw his fastball 84.2% of the time which does not bode well for long-term success. Gott will likely settle in as a nice 7th inning option for the Nationals who clear $7M in the trade, perhaps a precursor to a Jason Heyward run.
Michael Brady has thrown 358 innings in the minors from 2010-2015, mostly as a reliever. In 2015, Brady was with the Arkansas Travelers and posted a 3.77 ERA in 119 innings, walking just 12 batters all season. He figures to be a guy the Nationals can stash in AAA and call up if the injury bug bites.
The acquisition of Yunel Escobar is big for the Halos. It fills a huge hole at the lead off spot that the Angels have had for a few years now. Escobar’s career .350 OBP will look pretty sexy in front of Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun. Now, there’s no denying that Escobar’s 2015 was one of, if not his best, year offensively. His 120 wRC+ was a career best and his .314 BA was second only to his rookie season. This can likely be explained by his .347 BABIP which shows that Escobar was a very lucky hitter in 2015. So there are a lot of signs that Escobar will regress in 2016, but in terms of the Angels current roster he’s still a very valuable acquisition. Going forward, we can expect Escobar to be a .270./.330/.370 ish hitter.
On the other side of the ball, Escobar is a puzzle inside a riddle
wrapped in an enigma (hat tip if you get this reference). From 2007-2013, Escobar was a really good defender at shortstop; we’re talking 9.6 dWAR, 50 defensive runs saved (DRS). And then in 2014 he hit a wall, and was one of the worst defenders in the league. He lost all of his range (-17 UZR) and was a butcher with the glove (-24 DRS). 2015 wasn’t much better once he made the switch to third-base (-7.7 UZR / -12 DRS). So what does this mean going forward? If the Angels decide to play him at third, we can expect more of the same. Having Simmons to his left will certainly lessen the blow but Escobar’s D at that position would rank well below Kaleb Cowart’s for example. What might work is a move to second-base. If range is the problem, then being sandwiched between Simmons and Pujols will almost negate the issue. I’d say throw him at second-base and have him work with Alfredo Griffin and rely on the gloves of the other three infielders to shoulder some of the burden.
The other part of this equation is Yunel Escobar’s team friendly contract. He’s owed $7M in 2016 with a $7M option in 2017, those being his age 33 and 34 seasons. In today’s market, where 1 win is worth approximately $8M, this is a great investment.
So there he is, your likely lead-off hitter for the 2016 Angels. If he can return to form in the field even slightly, Escobar is a 2.5-3.5 WAR player. If not, he’s a 1-2 WAR player depending on how much the bat regresses.
How our staff ranked the trade:
Scott Stedman: B
Jerry Espinosa: B
Tanner Shurtz: B
Joe Gilleland: B
Brent Maguire: B
Robert Livingston: C-