Acquired in a deal that sent off Trevor Gott, Yunel Escobar has been everything one expected him to be. He consistently made contact, put the ball in play, and got on base for Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout, giving them increased opportunities to drive runs in. Despite his defensive and baserunning inefficiencies, he has been the leadoff hitter the Angels desperately needed for several seasons. In fact, this season Escobar batted .304/.355/.391 with a 109 WRC+ (meaning he is above average in runs created) in 132 games.
However, Escobar routinely makes boneheaded decisions on the bases and poor throw accuracy, which is reflected in his -5.6 BsR (baserunning runs, 0 is average), -5.8 UZR (all-around fielding, 0 is average), and -11 DRS (defensive runs saved). These stats only reify what we already know: that Escobar displays decision-making on the field despite having the talent to be able to make all the necessary plays.
Though he has produced a positive WAR this season, from a statistical standpoint he is still a net negative on the team this year, as evidenced by a -0.30 WPA (win probability added, which takes the sum of the impact of every offensive and defensive play during the season).
This brings me to the next point.
Will the Angels pick up Escobar’s $7M option?
This should be a no-brainer...or so I thought. As I am writing this, the Angels have not yet picked up Escobar’s option for 2017 yet; their deadline to do so is tonight at midnight.
UPDATE: Yunel Escobar’s option has been exercised.
What’s puzzling is that buying Escobar’s production on the free agent market this year would cost $12.7M, so the Angels would lock in an under-market contract should they pick up the option and Escobar maintains his production; Even if Escobar slightly regresses, the Angels would still come out on top.
This seems like a no-doubter, but the Angels have had multiple days to exercise the option and have not yet done so. I still expect them to exercise the option, but one has to wonder why it’s taking so long for them to do so.
Will Escobar be traded before the start of 2017?
This is, of course, assuming the option is picked up.
Marte showed promise last year, does Eppler believe he can take on the position full-time in 2017? Cameron Maybin was recently acquired and showed last season that he gets on base enough to be a leadoff hitter, and the combination of both could render Escobar expendable. If the Angels picked up [Escobar’s] option and then traded him, the Angels would clear $7M from salary to use towards a second baseman (Neil Walker?), bullpen arms, and/or another starting pitcher.
Is Eppler actively trying to trade Yunel Escobar right now?
Given the only respectable third base options in free agency are Justin Turner and Luis Valbuena, it would be wise to pick up Escobar’s option and wait until teams in free agency get desperate and make a strong offer. While Escobar would only be a one year rental, it should net us a decent bullpen arm or a mid-level prospect, at the very least.
Of course, Eppler could simply pick up Escobar’s option and keep him, deepening the lineup and improving the offense. This no longer appears to be the most likely scenario, however, given that Escobar’s option has not yet been exercised.
What do you think, Angels fans? Should Yunel Escobar be kept or traded?