Will the Braves look to trade Escobar this offsseason?

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Yunel Escobar is having a very good season, hitting .303/.380/.445 while rating slightly below average defensively according to Ultimate Zone Rating, which makes him one of the half-dozen most valuable shortstops in all of baseball as a 26-year-old.
However, he continues to frustrate manager Bobby Cox and the Braves with what Mark Bowman of MLB.com portrays as “a lackadaisical” attitude and “mental lapses.” Over the weekend he was benched mid-game for the second time this season, and here’s how Bowman described the scene:

Escobar moved gingerly out of the box when he grounded out to end the first inning. His slow approach might have prevented him from taking advantage of Chase Utley’s errant throw, which slightly pulled Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard off the bag.



Cox inserted Omar Infante to play shortstop before the start of the third inning. He said his decision to wait an inning was based on his desire to allow Infante to get loose. “I didn’t want to put anybody in just off the bench on the third out not loose,” Cox said.

Escobar’s name has been attached to various trade rumors for the past year or so, and if the Braves are truly tiring of his act there should be no shortage of teams lining up to take him off their hands. Among all big-league shortstops with at least 1,000 plate appearances during the past three seasons, here’s how Escobar ranks in batting average, on-base percentage, and adjusted OPS+:

                   AVG                         OBP                        OPS+
Hanley Ramirez    .327      Hanley Ramirez    .400      Hanley Ramirez    148
Derek Jeter       .317      Derek Jeter       .383      Derek Jeter       117
Cristian Guzman   .306      YUNEL ESCOBAR     .376      YUNEL ESCOBAR     112
YUNEL ESCOBAR     .303      Jose Reyes        .356      Troy Tulowitzki   110
Miguel Tejada     .293      Troy Tulowitzki   .356      Jose Reyes        109



Couple things. First, Hanley Ramirez is really good. Second, since his 2007 debut Escobar has hit .303 with a .376 on-base percentage and .429 slugging percentage. During that same time Derek Jeter has hit .317 with a .383 on-base percentage and .442 slugging percentage. Escobar is also a decade younger than Jeter, won’t even be eligible for salary arbitration until 2011, and is under team control for another four seasons.
He’s a 26-year-old career .303 hitter with a .376 OBP who’s averaged 12 homers and 31 doubles per 150 games, draws plenty of walks while rarely striking out, has sure hands and decent range at shortstop, and won’t be a free agent until after 2013. All of which is why when it comes to long-term, team-building assets there aren’t five more valuable shortstops in baseball, annoying but ultimately mild transgressions included.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.

Manny Machado teaches us to never give up

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The Rays beat the Orioles last night, but the play of the game belonged to an Oriole defender.

Evan Longoria was batting and he chopped a ball foul down the third base line. At least it started out foul. As we all know, however, it doesn’t matter where the ball starts, it matters where it is when it crosses the bag.

Manny Machado knows this and didn’t give up on the ball despite it starting several feet in foul territory. He watched it come back, stayed with it and threw out Longoria who, unlike Machado, did give up on it, assuming he’d merely get a strike and another hack. Watch:

Longoria would get Machado back, however, fielding a ball Machado smoked to third base in the ninth inning, recording the second to last out of the game.