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Roster review: Yunel Escobar

Oct 18, 2015, 10:42 AM EST

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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.

  1. chaz11963 - Oct 18, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    He had a career year at the plate- super for him. I think we should expect some regression next year. He was also terrible at 3B. I can’t imagine the Nats putting him at SS given the limited range he showed at 3B. I could see them going back to the original plan of Escobar at 2B and Rendon at 3B. The question is can Danny or Trea play everyday at SS, or some type of platoon. Of course, as Mark points out, this is also a good time to use Escobar in a trade too.

    • infideljack - Oct 18, 2015 at 11:30 AM

      Danny should be the everyday SS. Turner does not have the arm. He can play 2nd if we trade Escobar which we should do. With Difo and Bostick as back up in the minors, we should be fine. Rendon needs to be at 3B.

      • sec112 - Oct 18, 2015 at 4:56 PM

        Danny Espinosa is not a full time major league starter, and will not be used as one by the Nationals, except as a stopgap awaiting the arrival or return of another player. To the surprise of many of us, he proved this year that he can be valuable as a reserve. But that’s his ceiling on this team.

      • JamesFan - Oct 18, 2015 at 6:50 PM

        Are you ready to have a .220 BA and 200 strikeouts at SS? Espi is a defensive specialist bench player.

    • senators5 - Oct 18, 2015 at 12:22 PM

      Agree that he should be traded now. Excellent hitter, but EVERYTHING else, not so much, especially his lack of hustle and for this team to get back into the hunt, they do not need that presence in their room. I don’t believe our every day SS is even on the roster now but will be by ST.

      • vannordens - Oct 18, 2015 at 1:24 PM

        Lack of hustle? Compared to whom?

      • Eugene in Oregon - Oct 18, 2015 at 4:59 PM

        Re ‘hustle’: My perception — from a distance, on a little iPad screen — was that Yunel Escobar (who was playing with various aches and pains and injuries all year) sometimes opted to conserve his energy and avoid further injury. I don’t think that was a bad approach; I don’t have a problem with it. But a couple of times he got caught moving slowing when a fielder made a mistake and it cost him a base (or even an out). I can live with that, when you recognize it’s a 162-game season. Players know their bodies and I’m (mostly) comfortable with letting them play to the situation.

      • wskyrnr21 - Oct 19, 2015 at 7:26 PM

        Escobar is about Escobar and I agree that his attitude and lack of hustle are evident.

        He is a hot dog on the field and plays with his head in the clouds.

        Of course with a new manager that does not tolerate the fundamental flaws that this team displayed things may change.

        Would like to see a trade while his numbers are good for a player that hustles 110%.

      • jeffreycbullock - Oct 28, 2015 at 1:39 PM

        I remember the game this season when Drew Storen threw errantly to third on a bunt and instead of lighting out for the ball immediately, Escobar rolled his eyes and almost casually loped after the ball. That soured me on Escobar from that day forward and I’m surprised nothing was ever said by the ineffectual manager and coaching staff.

  2. veejh - Oct 18, 2015 at 11:56 AM

    His bat will definitely regress and his defense ain’t gettin any better. I say trade him and roll the dice on Espi and Turner and Difo.

    • JamesFan - Oct 18, 2015 at 6:52 PM

      Where are you going to get that .300 hitter for &7 m?

      • unkyd59 - Oct 19, 2015 at 7:58 PM

        I think BABIP was very kind to Esco. Too many ground balls… He could just as easily led the league in GIDP…

  3. natsguy - Oct 18, 2015 at 12:38 PM

    I don’t dislike Escobar but he is not a good 3B. I doubt if he is better at SS than either Turner or Espinosa. So where would you put him. They should try to trade high and get some bullpen help

  4. JayB - Oct 18, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    I agree with Njack completely and happy day…Nats fired all the training and strength staff and Medical team is next I am sure.

    • trfwans - Oct 18, 2015 at 1:22 PM

      Can they get Tatiana back?

    • ArVAFan - Oct 18, 2015 at 2:05 PM

      Yes, can they please get someone who can either diagnose a broken wrist, or someone who knows they can’t and immediately makes a referral? Making Danny play for a month with a broken wrist: that’s abuse. At least Werth knew he needed to go get his own second opinion (maybe because what happened to Danny).

      As fun as Escobar was to watch on the field, I suspect that his value is higher as a trade chip, so we’ve seen the last of him. But it was fun (ok, except for some of his play at 3rd base). Since he did a bit of showing off, it could have been Escobar that Papelbon went after instead of Harper. I think Papelbon might have gotten the worst of that encounter.

    • wskyrnr21 - Oct 20, 2015 at 7:34 AM

      Can they Fire FP as well ……. make it a sweep!

  5. nataddicted - Oct 18, 2015 at 1:08 PM

    Hi Everyone, Well if he’s gone then I really enjoyed his time here. Always a good At Bat to watch.

    I see how the team painted themselves in a corner. They portrayed it as if Yuni volunteered to play third and I’m not sure that’s the way it happened, but the result was that he was frozen out of playing second when they made the move.

    Plus: Bat Control (168 hits!), hitting behind runner, Bounceback from being hit by pitches, game involvement. Team friendly contract. Doesn’t get ejected. Doesn’t draw a lot of headlines.

    Minus: Slow on basepaths – double plays, fielding range & somewhat his approach to positioning. Unless he’s at SS, he’ll be learning another IF position (2B).

    Espinosa had a marvelous result this year, certainly unexpected. But are we brave enough to put him in at SS for the long term? Good question.

    Turner, wonderful player that he is, is not on my 25 man MLB squad… yet.

    • natsguy - Oct 18, 2015 at 1:20 PM

      I’m not so sure about marvelous results from Espinosa. After mid June he was pretty much back to the same old Espinosa. Swing from the heels and hope the hell you hit something.

      • adcwonk - Oct 18, 2015 at 5:41 PM

        After mid June he was pretty much back to the same old Espinosa. Swing from the heels and hope the hell you hit something.

        He batted .305 after the all star break — which included a .340 in September.

        Did *any* Nat player hit that well during that other, other than Bryce?

        (He was also the 9th hardest player in the NL to strike out)

      • adcwonk - Oct 18, 2015 at 5:43 PM

        Whoops. I thought you were saying that Escobar was pretty much the same . . .

        I agree with you on Espi !!

        Espi batted .206 after the all star break.

  6. Section 222 - Oct 18, 2015 at 3:16 PM

    Esco isn’t a perfect player, but other than Harper and Joe Ross, no one exceeded expectations more than he did. He deserves a lot of credit for how he played this year, and I truly don’t understand the “lack of hustle” criticism. He played through injuries and hopefully demolished the “clubhouse cancer” canard forever.

    My guess is that he will start at 2B on opening day. How long he’s with the Nats next year depends on how well Espi plays and whether Turner plays at 2B or SS when he rejoins the team after playing in AAA long enough to address the service time issue.

    • Joe Seamhead - Oct 18, 2015 at 3:31 PM

      + a pair of deuces.

  7. #4 - Oct 18, 2015 at 6:04 PM

    To win next year they need to address two areas – bullpen and defense. Trading him for bullpen help would improve both. The next move is to find another catcher, even at the expense of a bit of offense.

  8. NatsNut - Oct 19, 2015 at 5:04 PM

    I always liked how loose Escobar played. And once Scooter told me he can sometimes be heard saying, “no, no, no, no…” when a pitch didn’t look good, well, then, I just got all kinds of warm fuzzies for the guy.

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