Oct 18, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2016: 33
How acquired: Trade with the Athletics in Jan. 2015
MLB service time: 8 years, 121 days
2015 salary+bonuses: $5 million
Contract status: Signed for $7 million in 2016, $7 million team option for 2017 with $1 million buyout
2015 stats: 139 G, 591 PA, 75 R, 168 H, 25 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 2 SB, 45 BB, 70 SO, .314 AVG, .375 OBP, .415 SLG, .790 OPS, 7 E, -7.7 UZR, 2.1 WAR
Quotable: “He’s playing with a clean mind. He prepared himself real well this offseason, playing real relaxed. He said that’s why it’s leading to him having a good year,” Escobar through a translator.
2015 analysis: Yunel Escobar joined the Nationals late in the offseason in a trade with the Oakland Athletics just days after getting traded to the A’s from the Tampa Bay Rays in a separate deal. Escobar replaced Clippard on the Nats roster and, despite playing a different position, had very big shoes to fill. The new National will always be tied to Clippard, who left D.C. as one of the best and more popular players in team history.
Escobar couldn’t help out the Nats’ bullpen, which became a weakness in part due to Clippard’s absence, but he was excellent for their offense. The nine-year MLB veteran enjoyed his best season at the plate with a .314 average – sixth in the NL – 75 runs and a .790 OPS. He was considered by many a snub for the All-Star Game and continued that pace throughout the season.
Defensively, Escobar stuck at third base after entering the season projected to play at second. But a lengthy injury recovery for Anthony Rendon pushed Escobar to third and once he was there he never left. Escobar felt comfortable at third despite playing the majority of his career at shortstop, and Rendon’s versatility to play both second and third helped his cause. Escobar struggled at times on defense, but did enough with his bat to be one of the team’s more valuable players in the 2015 season.
2016 outlook: Escobar had the best season of his career and it came with two more years of team control left on his contract. If he can continue to play like he did in 2015, then $7 million over the next two seasons looks like a favorable price for what he provides.
The Nationals could certainly use Escobar with the likely departure of Ian Desmond in free agency. He fits in their infield alongside Ryan Zimmerman, Rendon and either Danny Espinosa or Trea Turner. Where Escobar fits defensively, however, is hard to tell.
The Nationals will have to decide whether they want to keep him at third, where he seems to want to play, or move him to second and return Rendon to third base. Rendon is a much better defensive player and that showed down the stretch of 2015 with Escobar sidelined at different times.
Given they do have Espinosa, who had a bounce-back season in 2015, the Nationals could look to move Escobar this offseason. They would listen to trade offers for the veteran and at this point would be selling high. There is no guarantee Escobar can produce the same numbers in 2016. Then again, with the injury histories of Rendon and Zimmerman, entering a season with five starting-quality infielders may not be a bad idea.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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