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Diamondbacks Free-agent Discussion, #5: Eduardo Escobar

a.k.a. Sir Not-Returning-To-The-Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

This winter, Eduardo Escobar will likely be in much the same situation he was at the trade deadline in July: a fall-back option for teams that can’t afford, or don’t succeed in getting, the services of Manny Machade. For the D-backs, Escobar proved particularly useful, given the loss of Jake Lamb for the season with a shoulder issue. Though Eduardo can play both third-base and shortstop, he appeared exclusively at the hot corner for Arizona after his arrival from Minnesota. He started 51 times, and was solid rather than spectacular. Escobar batted .268/.327/.444 for an OPS+ of 100 and 1.0 bWAR/fWAR. For comparison, Machado had an OPS+ of 122 and was worth 2.8 bWAR/2.4 fWAR for LA, in a dozen more games.

The hope is that the D-backs won’t need Escobar, or anyone like him, in 2019. The ideal scenario will see Lamb make a full recovery from the surgery he underwent to repair a frayed left rotator cuff. He can then return to the level of performance which made Jake an All-Star in 2017, rather than posting a career-low OPS+ of 72 this year. There seems little doubt that the shoulder did have a significant impact on Lamb’s production. He said, “It’s my back arm, so getting on-plane with the ball, dropping my elbow and then finishing through the baseball. Because the move going across and up is the most painful/most uncomfortable.”

Even if we did need someone, Escobar is not likely to be in the D-backs price-range for 2019. Though cheap enough this year, earning less than five million dollars, he’ll be in for a nice pay increase as a free-agent. However, he won’t be raking in anything near the contract the top players will be negotiating in the coming months. Eduardo’s 3.2 bWAR this season was a career high, and over his 770 games, Eduardo has only put up a total of 7.7 bWAR, which is respectable rather than awesome (again, compare Machado: 33.8 bWAR in 926 games). Escobar will also turn thirty in January, making him three and a half years older than Manny, and likely heading gently on the down-side of the aging curve.

Earlier in the season, MLB Trade Rumors chewed over possible contracts for Escobar, They concluded, at that point, “something in the vein of Omar Infante’s admittedly dated four-year, $30.25MM deal with Kansas City shouldn’t be entirely ruled out.” Escobar’s stock has perhaps dropped slightly, with his offensive production in the second-half falling short of what he was doing at the time of the article. But for his age 30-33 seasons. I can still see him getting about $28 million or so, especially from a team which can use him at shortstop, rather than as a third-baseman.

Worth noting: unlike Patrick Corbin, there won’t be any draft compensation for the D-backs. Escobar is ineligible for a Qualifying Offer, due to having been traded during the season. Of contending teams, the one most in need of help at that position would be the Brewers, who got 1.8 bWAR below average from short in 2018. While Orlando Arcia has had a power surge for Milwaukee in the playoffs, he had a feeble 55 OPS+ in the regular season and, despite Gold Glove caliber defense, was below replacement level by bWAR. Unless you buy his October form as the “real Arcia,” it’s an area where the Brewers may well look to improve, as they did at the deadline with the trade for Jonathan Schoop - who hit even less than Arcia.