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The one Escobar: Will Yunel help the Angels?

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Meet the newest Angel.  Come on down, Mr. Escobar!
Meet the newest Angel. Come on down, Mr. Escobar!
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As you no doubt have seen, the Angels traded a young, up-and-coming reliever, Trevor Gott, for the Nationals' third baseman, Yunel Escobar.

On the surface, there seems to be a lot to like about this deal.  Any time you can turn a reliever into a solid everyday player, especially one who makes only $7 million per year, it seems wise to make the trade.  The question is, though, how solid is Escobar and how badly did the Angels' bullpen, not exactly the strength of the team as it was, need Gott?

Looking at Escobar first, this could go a couple of ways.  He put up 2 WAR last year (1.9 per BBRef and 2.1 per Fangraphs) Let's break this guy down and see what makes him tick.

Point: He hit .314/.375/.415 last year for an OPS+ of 113 (a wRC+ of 120 due to the high OBP).  That would look really nice at the top of the order.

Counterpoint: That's the best Escobar has hit since at least 2011, maybe ever, and there are serious doubts about whether he can repeat it.  His BABIP spiked to .347 last season which looks to be based on an absurdly high line drive rate.  If the BABIP comes down to his career average (.306), we're looking at a slash line closer to .270/.340/.375.  That's still nice, but will probably make him about a league average hitter overall, somewhat worse than David Freese was last year.

Point: His walk rates and strikeout rates are good.

Counterpoint: His walk rate did take a dip last year down to 7.6%, which isn't great, but hopefully that's more of a one-year blip.  When everything you hit is falling in, why not swing, right?

Point: He is a former shortstop who has since moved to third.  There is also the possibility that he could play some second if the Angels find another third baseman.  That versatility has some value.

Counterpoint: His defense took a nosedive at shortstop two years ago and while it recovered some when he got moved to third base last season, it was still well below average.  Both Fangraphs and BBRef liked Freese's defense at third last season significantly more than Escobar's.  In theory, he can play second, but he hasn't done that in the big leagues for years, and it's unlikely his range, which is already suffering at third, will look better in more space.

Countercounterpoint(s): One-year defense stats are notoriously fickle, and Escobar was a quality defender for many years prior to two years ago.  I tend to think that age has caught up with him and he's not going to get back to his former defensive prowess, but I could be wrong there.  In addition, hopefully Simmons' defensive majesty will compensate for any of Escobar's deficiencies.

Point: He makes $7 million this year and has a club option for $7 million next year ($1 million buyout).  That's pretty cheap, especially if Escobar can provide 2 wins in value next season.  It's certainly cheaper than Freese will be, and hopefully it gives Arte Moreno enough room to play with to make another big signing.

Counterpoint: None, really.  Unless Escobar's value falls off a cliff, he should be worth the contract this season and there's virtually no long-term risk.

Analysis: I'm not sold that Escobar will be a better player than Freese will be this year (or than Freese was last year).  But I'm pretty confident he'll be better than any in-house options we have, namely Kubitza or Cowart.  In all honesty, I would have rather had a guy like Prado or Plouffe, but Escobar can hopefully be a league average third baseman while allowing the two kids to get a season of extra development.

So what about the guy we gave up?

Point: Trevor Gott is a one-inning reliever, so unless he turns into Mariano Rivera, his value is pretty much capped around a win and a half, if that.  Even with 47 innings of an ERA around 3, he only put up half a win of value last year.

Counterpoint: Uhhh, maybe he'll turn into the next Mariano Rivera?  Otherwise, I got nothing.  One inning relievers are fungible.

Point: The Angels bullpen is well stocked with young arms who can take Gott's place...

Counterpoint: LIAR!  That's not true at all.  Remember that thing about fungibility?  That's only true if you've got an average farm system with your usual assortment of older failed starting pitchers who can be converted into relievers and/or young fireballers.  The Angels' system is filled with VHS tapes of bad '80's sitcoms.

Point: Gott has electric stuff, but it resulted in only a 5.1 K/9 strikeout rate last season. That's a poor showing for ANY pitcher in this day and age, but especially alarming for a reliever with a 95 MPH fastball.

Counterpoint: That K-rate is also by far the lowest he's posted in his professional career. Furthermore, he combined it with a great groundball rate (which also functioned to keep homeruns down) and he had decent control last season as well (3.02 BB/9).  I like his chances of developing another pitch and at least getting back to 7 K/9, if not more.

Analysis: I'm not that high on Gott, to be honest, simply because he's just a 7th inning guy at this point and the lack of strikeouts last season is a small red flag, but I have to admit there is projectability there.  And the bottom line is that he was going to be counted on to pitch in high leveraged innings next season.  Those innings have to be pitched by somebody.  Who's going to do it?  You?  You, Fernando Salas?  Trevor Gott has a responsibility that you can't possibly fathom...sorry, I slipped into A Few Good Men mode there.

Trade Grade: If the Angels sign another bat, I give this a B- simply because Escobar is cheap, fills a hole, and provides some needed OBP in a lineup that is sorely lacking it (although it should also be noted that he's yet another right-handed hitter).  Trevor Gott, while a useful reliever, is just that, and we should be able to find someone to replace him.

If the Angels DON'T sign another bat, I give this a C because Escobar by himself isn't going to solve the hitting woes and we may find ourselves longing for David Freese's defense at third.

What do you think?