In its purest sense, the answer to the question is obvious.
Yes, of course the Toronto Blue Jays could move embattled shortstop Yunel Escobar this off-season. They could move him, just like they could theoretically move anyone else on the roster.
That they’d have a good reason to, on the other hand, makes the potential exit of Escobar a topic of interest.
Remember when the Blue Jays first acquired Escobar from the Atlanta Braves? It was considered something of a coup, as the team had only moved veteran Alex Gonzalez over in the deal. It was a deal that was only made available because the Braves simply didn’t want to deal with Escobar’s perceived attitude problems anymore, and wanted to cut bait before the project was a total loss. Escobar flourished in Toronto, putting up his best season in three years in 2011, and all was well.
Until 2012 came along, anyway.
Amidst a disappointing season filled with under-performers, Escobar somehow managed to distinguish himself: yes, his career-worst season was just one reason why the Blue Jays made him available at the trade deadline, but the scandal involving a homophobic slur on his eye black only amplified his struggles by a factor of sheer idiocy. The obligatory apology presser didn’t particularly do him any favours, either; if there was ever a reason why the team’s management would want to part ways with Escobar, that was it. Alex Anthopoulos has emphasized the ideal of “believing in the person” when it comes to making roster decisions, and the incident was not be the most flattering reflection on Escobar as a person.
Oh yeah, and there was also the thing with the “veterans” on the team coming out and saying there was a lack of leadership, too. Combined with the fact that the future-shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria came on strong from September on (.291/.333 with seven extra-base hits in his final 23 games), and the reasons to keep Escobar around just keep dwindling. Do they do it to move him over to 2nd base, and hope for a rebound season? Maybe, but it seems more likely that they would prefer to take the route the Braves did, and shop him around in the winter to see if they can get any value.
Value is the key, however. Yes, there are good reasons to move Escobar, but I’m not suggesting that the Blue Jays would simply move Escobar for anything; not when Escobar is still signed on for a very reasonable five-million dollars next season, and not with his upside, attitude problems and all.
The big question, however, is where? Which team might be able to give the Blue Jays a suitable trade partner? Dan Knobler of CBS expanded on – at the time of the eye-black incident – the idea that the Detroit Tigers could be a candidate.
I propose that the other team he mentioned – the Arizona Diamondbacks – would be a better fit. Firstly, the two teams have already hooked up before, in the change-of-scenery trade that sent Aaron Hill and John Macdonald over to Arizona for Kelly Johnson (that’s a trade I’m guessing the team would want back, but that’s a topic for another day); and, as Knobler mentioned, the Diamondbacks are looking – and have been looking – for a shortstop for some time.
Except this time, they don’t have a shortstop in need of a change-of-scenery to move back to Toronto. They do however, have the thing that the Blue Jays covet – quality young pitchers. I’m guessing they’d be hard pressed to move an injured Daniel Hudson, or a top prospect like Trevor Bauer – but that they could have them in the rotation next season might make someone like Tyler Skaggs available in a trade.
I’d think that a top-50, near MLB-ready prospect like Skaggs (whose first taste of the big leagues was a bit of a mixed bag) for a shortstop like Escobar would be a trade that might work for both the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks. Obviously, there are other factors such as age, the issue of Escobar only being under team control for one more year, along with questions about his ability to bounce back with a new team.
That said, Skaggs strikes me as a player who may have a hard time finding his way on the starting rotation in 2013, if only because Arizona has an excess in pitching. On a need-for-need basis, it’s a good match on paper.
That would be the type of value I think the Blue Jays would like to get back for Escobar; whether they end up getting it or not, I’m at least fairly certain that they’ll do some shopping around.