Alex Anthopoulous and the Blue Jays have locked up what is anticipated to be a key part to the “freight train” to sucess plan, signing shortstop Yunel Escobar to a 2-year, $10 million extension that will see him in a Blue Jays uniform through 2013.
The deal buys out Escobar’s final two arbitration years, with club options at $5 million/year that can be exercised through 2015 (just in case Hechavarria isn’t ready). Escobar has been a tremendous asset for the Blue Jays in his first season with the team, hitting .280 with 8 home runs and 42 runs scored from mostly the leadoff position – one of this glaring weaknesses (a lack of speed) is somewhat offset by a .359 OBP, and Escobar is currently recording a WAR (wins above replacement) of 1.9, which ranks 5th in the AL, just behind names like Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Simply put, shortstops in the league are mostly a lost cause on offense, and guys who can hit 15 home runs while batting .285 doesn’t exactly grow from trees. The Blue Jays got fantastic value at $5 million dollars a piece, locking up a shortstop that is still in his prime years, and whose skillset (unless speed demons) are less likely to diminish as he heads over age 30.
The club options also serve to protect the Blue Jays, should our young shortstop prospects don’t end up panning out; will Yunel Escobar still be a solid contributor at 32? That remains to be seen, but in my mind, this represents a double-coup for the Blue Jays: first stealing Escobar away from the Braves for Alex Gonzalez, and then locking him up through his prime years for a very reasonable amount of money. At this current rate, Yunel’s skillset could be worth anywhere up to $8-10 million in a year; guaranteeing him half of that, while buying out what should be his best years, and without having to commit to a long term contract? Yeah, that’s not a bad day of work right there.