- 2018 rating: 6.73
- 2017 rating: N/a
- 2018 salary: $4,800,000
- 2018 performance: 151 games, 631 PA, .272/.334/.489 = .824 OPS, 118 OPS+, 117 wRC+, 3.2 bWAR, 3.5 fWAR
- 2019 status: Re-signed with Arizona for 3 years/$21 million
Before the 2017 season, Eduardo Escobar hadn’t really done much to signify he’d be a future D-back. Over 1,500 plate appearances of below average hitting had much to lend to that. But something happened, and that something continued way into the 2018 season.
See, Eduardo wasn’t much of a power hitter. Before his trade to the D-backs, he’d hit 36 homers with 53 doubles over the last season and a half, completely changing his future outlook from a fringe bench bat to legitimate starter. Escobar was a main reason for a decent start to the season for the Twins and was arguably the top infielder available after the Manny Machado trade to the Dodgers.
The D-backs probably had minimal contact with the Twins about Escobar before a regular Thursday game against the Cubs but Jake Lamb re-injured his shoulder, with the end result of him being placed on the injured reserved. The front office responded in turn, acquiring Escobar that next day for a smattering of 3 young prospects who are 2 years away from being 2 years away.
While it wasn’t on the level of a J.D Martinez acquisition, public opinion of the trade was a good one and the D-backs were immediately rewarded, as Escobar went 2 for 4 in a 9-4 win against the Padres. Lamb was on the DL and 3rd base was Eduardo’s for the rest of the year.
Eduardo was just as advertised for the team down the stretch; he continued the solid performance in August, slashing 275/.346/.473 and providing an improvement on the defensive side compared to the inconsistent 2018-version of Lamb. September saw a performance swoon from just about everyone, Escobar included. Of course, that didn’t stop Escobar from walking off the Dodgers late in the season.
Unforunately, the end of the season meant Escobar was a free agent, able to sign with any team in the league. As a 30 year old coming off two strong seasons while having positional flexibility to play anywhere in the infield (and some outfield in a pinch), Escobar was setup to cash in. Ben Zobrist was in a similar situation a couple years prior, coming off a couple very good recent offensive seasons while showing excellent positional flexibility. The Cubs rewarded him with a 4 year, $56 million deal. Of course, Ben was also 34 but age hasn’t been an issue for him as he’s been a stud going into his last season with the team.
Which is why Escobar signing a seemingly below-market deal (3 years, $21 million) to stay with Arizona seems like such a weird outcome, especially when you consider Eduardo signed very early in the offseason. I’ll let Eduardo explain his reasoning (Athletic subscription required):
I think the most important thing for me coming here was the people here,” Escobar said. “There are great people here. Everybody took care of my family and that’s the most important thing for me. I signed it because I like it here. I’m happy to be here and ready for next season.
Of course, it helps that Scottsdale houses his favorite restaurant, Fogo De Chão. During the season, he hosted a fundraiser supporting his charity and is seen by many as a wonderful team ambassador.