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: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.