Yunel Escobar-Alex Gonzalez swap a definite win for Toronto

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Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez certainly isn’t a deal anyone saw coming a year or two ago. Sure, the Braves had always had something of a love-hate relationship with their Cuban shortstop, but they had no shortage of opportunities to move him for promising players. To trade him now for an older, less-rangy shortstop having a fluke year seems like a waste.
That’s not to say it can’t work out. While Escobar’s 2008 and 2009 seasons were arguably better than any Gonzalez has had since reaching the majors in 1998, he has been a complete bust this year with no sign of breaking out. It’s remarkable just how little power he’s displayed. Everything off his bat seems to be a popup or a grounder to short. His always fine strikeout rate has held steady and his walk rate is up, but he just hasn’t hit the ball with authority at any point this year.
Gonzalez, on the other hand, has a chance to put up a 30-homer season. He struggles to make contact and he’ll weaken the OBP at the bottom of Atlanta’s lineup, but he’ll probably manage to drive in some of the runners that Escobar was leaving on base. He’s also a steadier defender than Escobar, even if he has made 11 errors to Escobar’s nine this year. He’s lost a step, particularly on up-the-middle grounders, but he remains rock solid.
What I find particularly interesting about the deal is that the Braves, the contending team, knew they were giving up the superior property and insisted on getting a couple of prospects in return. Atlanta also parted with left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes in the five-player swap, but there’s no way the Blue Jays would have traded Tim Collins and infielder Tyler Pastornicky for him. Reyes’ stock has plummeted, and he was essentially a throw-in.
Collins, a 5-foot-7 southpaw, has struck out 73 in 43 innings for Double-A New Hampshire this year. He has a chance to be considerably more than a specialist, as righties have hit just .158 off him. Despite his small frame, he works in the low-90s consistently, and he has a quality curve. He’s a fine relief prospect.
Pastornicky, 20, was a fifth-round pick in 2008. He’s hit .258/.348/.376 with 24 steals while splitting time between shortstop and second base for Single-A Dunedin this season. He doesn’t currently project as a regular, but there’s still some room for growth — he’s already taken a step forward in the power department this year — and he’s a pretty good bet to turn into a nifty utilityman if he doesn’t reach his ceiling.
Of course, I still believe this was a no-brainer for the Blue Jays. Escobar is likely to revert to being a better player than Gonzalez next season, and he’s under control through 2013. He won’t even make very much next year because he has been so bad so far this year. My guess is that he’ll go to at least one All-Star Game as a Blue Jay.
That said, I also really liked the Scott Rolen-for-Edwin Encarnacion deal last year, and that similar trade of an established veteran for an underperforming younger player hasn’t worked out so well to date.
For the Braves, it’s a short-term fix. Gonzalez’s $2.5 million option for 2011 will almost surely be picked up, so the Braves will have him then, too. Still, this trade all boils down to how well Gonzalez plays over these next 2 1/2 or, hopefully, 3 1/2 months. If he solidifies a position the Braves were getting nothing from to date and the team goes far into the postseason, then the deal will be worth it regardless of how well Escobar bounces back.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 3: The Cards had a 3-0 lead that the Dodgers erased by the seventh inning. It remained tied until the ninth when Dave Roberts called on his just-activated closer, Kenley Jansen. Jansen said he was healthy before he came in and he said he felt fine after he came out but in between he gave up ninth inning homers to Jedd Gyorko — a pinch hit number — and Matt Carpenter to take the L. Los Angeles stranded 14 baserunners. The Cardinals won their 15th game in the month of August, the most in all of baseball.

Giants 2, Mets 1: Derek Holland allowed a Wilmer Flores RBI double in the first inning and then he and six relievers shut the Mets out for the game’s final 12 frames. Zack Wheeler allowed only one run over seven innings while striking out 10, and relievers continued that fine work until the 13th. Some fine work can be undone, however, in the blink of an eye:

That allowed Andrew McCutchen to score what turned out to be the winning run. His comment about it after the game:

“Laughed all the way to the dugout. Everybody’s eyes were about as big as that big-eyed emoji. It was pretty crazy. Everyone was pretty stunned, but everyone was going to be stunned when something like that happens.”

It was the Mets, though, so is “stunned” really the right word here?

Athletics 9, Rangers 0: Mike Fiers allowed only one hit in seven shutout innings and the Rangers were the third team shut out overall on Monday night. Ramon Laureano hit two homers for Oakland. Khris Davis hit one, but it was a special one. Before the game Davis met with some kids from the Make a Wish Foundation, and one of them — Anthony Slocumb — autographed Davis’ jersey. Davis, still wearing the jersey in the game, launched a monster home run with Anthony’s name on the back:

Davis, after the game:

“I thought about him around the bases. There’s not a better feeling than hitting a home run, so hopefully he got some excitement and joy from watching that.”

And, I presume, he got the jersey too.

Mariners 7, Astros 4: Seattle helped Oakland back in to a first place tie in the West by beating the Astros thanks to a three-run homer from Robinson Cano in the eighth which broke a 4-4 tie. Felix Hernandez made his return to the rotation after a brief foray into relief work. He wasn’t great — he allowed four runs in five innings — but the M’s got to Houston’s pen, tying things up on a sixth inning and taking him off the hook for a loss when Mitch Haniger singled in a run, setting the stage for Cano’s heroics.

Braves 1, Pirates 0: When you have a 20 year-old rookie pitcher making his big league debut you don’t want to have him make one first inning run hold up, but that’s what the Braves did to Bryse Wilson. Wilson responded, however, tossing five shutout innings with five relievers keeping up the goose eggs the rest of the way. The Pirates, meanwhile, have allowed a single run in five straight games . . . and they’ve lost three of those games. When the opposition makes defensive plays like this one made by Ender Inciarte, however, stuff like that is going to happen:

Indians 5, Red Sox 4: Boston jumped out to a 3-0 lead in this potential playoff preview, but homers from Melky Cabrera and Michael Brantley in the fifth and six tied it up and a two-run homer from Greg Allen in the seventh put Cleveland up 5-3. Rick Porcello surrendered all of those bombs. Just before the Allen bomb he had been hit in the gut with a comebacker, which knocked the wind out of him. He said he was fine and no one blamed the blast on the effects of that comebacker. Porcello just said he hung a crappy pitch. Corey Kluber pitched in the seventh inning for Cleveland and got his 16th win on the year, tying him for the league lead.

Blue Jays 5, Orioles 3: Kendrys Morales smacked two homers, accounting for four of the Jays’ five runs. Toronto has taken 10 of 11 games against Baltimore this year and all eight at home.

White Sox 8, Twins 5: White Sox manager Rick Renteria was taken to a hospital before the game due to lightheadedness and stayed overnight for observation. If there was a TV in his room he observed Matt Davidson hit a homer and drove in three runs, Jose Abreu get two hits and two RBI and Lucas Giolito allow three runs and five hits in his second straight win. He also observed the Sox win their fourth game in five outings. Here’s hoping that, and whatever medical care he needed, got him feeling better and that he’s back with the club today.

Rays 1, Royals 0: The Rays bullpenned it up once again and saw four pitchers combine on the shutout, with second pitcher Ryan Yarbrough working the most innings. Willy Adames third inning RBI single was the game’s only scoring. Eight pitchers were used in all in this 1-0 game. I wonder if there were any nine-inning, no-rain-dealy 1-0 games that involved this many pitchers in all of baseball history before, say, 1990. I bet there wasn’t.

Brewers 5, Reds 2: Chase Anderson gave up early solo homers to Reds batters — he does that — but Travis Shaw and Christian Yelich homered — Shaw’s was a two-run shot — to give the Brewers a 3-2 lead by the sixth inning and they just added from there.