The Braves trade Yunel Escobar to the Jays for Alex Gonzalez

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It’s actually a five player deal.  In addition to Escobar, the Blue Jays get pitcher Jo Jo Reyes.  Coming back to Atlanta with Gonzalez are minor leaguers Tim Collins and Tyler Pastronicky.

We’ve talked about Escobar recently. The Braves have long been sour on him, and the sense is that Bobby Cox and others in the organization don’t much care for his demeanor, effort and the cut of his gib.  He’s a talented player, and has shown great ability with his bat and his glove at times in the past, but he is prone to simply disappearing on both sides of the ball for weeks on end. 2010 has been something of a disaster for him all around: no power, no on base skills and multiple fielding lapses.

Gonzalez is currently hitting .259/.296/.497. Lots of pop there — 17 homers so far — but the OBP is (a) terrible; and (b) almost exactly in keeping with his historical standards.  The homers are flukely; he’s never hit more than 23 in a season before, and that was several years ago.  He has a reputation as a great glove man, but that was based on work he did years ago. I don’t watch him much, but from what I can tell he’s now merely an adequate shortstop. Which, to be fair, is better than Escobar is when he’s in one of his increasingly frequent funks.

I’m going to take some time to investigate the minor leaguers here, but given that the Braves’ throw-in is Jo Jo “I’m basically worthless” Reyes, I’m going to assume that Collins and Pastronicky are no great shakes. UPDATE: as noted in the comments, Tim Collins looks interesting. Awesome K/IP ratio and WHIP in 194 minor league relief innings.  Maybe there’s more to this deal from Atlanta’s perspective than meets the eye.

First impression of the deal: I think the Braves are selling low on Escobar and that he’s quite capable of putting up some great numbers at some point. It would have been nice to see him do it in a Braves uniform, but if I’ve learned anything from watching this team over the past 25 years, I’ve learned that when they lose confidence in someone, they are 100% certain to ship them out, so waiting for him to rebound was never in the cards.  Basically, the Braves have opted for likely unimpressive but nonetheless stable play of Gonzalez at shortstop over the the bi-polar stylings of Escobar.

Say what you will, but it’s a move totally in keeping with the Braves’ organizational philosophy.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report: