The Mets and Angels pulled off an unexpected trade Friday night. New York treated a veteran infielder edward escobar and cash considerations at Halos for prospects Coleman’s Crow And Landon Marcaux. New York would pay Escobar’s salary up to the league’s minimum of $720,000.
Escobar, 34, spent a year and a half in Queens. The amiable infielder signed a two-year, $20 million free agent contract during the 2021-22 offseason. He worked as New York’s primary third baseman last year, starting 125 games and totaling 542 plate appearances. It put up a decent .240/.295/.430 performance, making up for the mediocre mark on the base by connecting on 20 homers.
This kind of production is normal for the course. Escobar doesn’t walk a lot, which usually keeps his on-base percentage around or below league average. He is a solid power bat, however, hitting the 20-home run mark every full season between 2017-22. A 35-home run season with the Diamondbacks in 2019 appears to have been bloated by the spirited ball that year, but Escobar has a fair amount of pop in his bat.
He hasn’t shown that in 2023, largely thanks to an early season slump. Escobar opened the year as New York’s third baseman, but only hit .125 / .173 / .229 through April 16. At that time, New York recalled the best hope Brett Baty and installed it in the hot corner. This pushed Escobar into a deep role for which he is arguably overqualified.
To his credit, Escobar has played well in sporadic playing time since being pushed to the bench. He has a .323/.373/.548 batting line in 67 plate appearances since Baty was promoted. His overall season line still sits below average (.236/.286/.409) thanks to the brutal first few weeks, but Escobar has contributed when given opportunities lately.
Nevertheless, there was no clear path for him to return to the starting lineup. Baty, 23, is seen as a potential attacking player. He struggled after a scorching first few weeks but continued to get regular playing time. Baty has taken four of the last six starts in the hot corner, all against a right-handed pitcher. Jeff McNeil is dug in at second base, closing Escobar’s other main lane toward ingame time.
There are no such roadblocks in Anaheim. The Angels have been hit with three on-field injuries in quick succession over the past week. Shortstop Zach Neto tensed his oblique. corner player Gio Urshela suffered a broken pelvis that could end his season. Anthony Rendon suffered a bruised left wrist on a pitch shot.
All of a sudden the Halos were pressing Andrew Velasquez, Luis Rengifo and a combination of Jared Walsh And Michael Stefanic in regular game time around Brandon Dry. That’s a suboptimal group for a club battling for a playoff spot.
Escobar shouldn’t take any playing time from Velazquez at shortstop. Although there was some experience early in his career, he hasn’t played the position with any consistency since 2018. He will be an option at the other spots on the pitch, particularly third and second base. Public metrics such as Defensive Runs Saved and Statcast’s Outs Above Average have rated him a below-average defender in recent years, but he can rebound from dirt as a utility-first option.
He is the most direct replacement for right-handed hitter Urshela. The Escobar switch hits but was a bit more effective on the right side of the dish. Over the past five seasons, he’s carried a line of .278/.317/.514 against left-handed pitcher while hitting .237/.300/.431 against right-handed arms. Since moving him to third base, the Mets have deployed him primarily against lefties — a huge factor in his much-improved production.
With Escobar having a diminished role in Queens and the Halos suddenly looking for help on the pitch, there’s decent appeal for everyone involved. It’s rare to see a trade of this kind of consequence occur in June, but it’s understandable that the angels wanted to jump the market. Their need on the pitch is most pressing while Rendon is out of action. The Halos don’t have much room for error in a muddled American League playoff picture. Los Angeles came into play tonight half a game behind the Yankees for the final AL Wild Card spot and six games behind Rangers in the AL West.
The Mets entered the season with divisional aspirations after winning 101 games last year. New York has played a disappointing ball so far, going 34-40 in play Friday night. Now 14 games away from the Braves in Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, they are virtually out of the divisional mix. They are still within earshot of a Wild Card spot, seven games behind the Dodgers.
New York is not yet conceding the 2023 campaign. Chief executive Billy Eppler said Newsday’s Tim Healey that Escobar’s trade had “no correlation” with the rest of the club’s maturity plans. Instead, the team jumped at the chance to cash in on a player who had been kicked from the roster for a pair of minor league pitchers.
Crow ranked 17th on Baseball America’s midseason update on the Angels’ farm system and ranked eighth on Eric Longenhagen’s recent list at FanGraphs. Signed overslot out of high school in the 28th round of the 2019 draft, Crow praises his athleticism and a quality slider.
The Georgia native is considered a potential starter in rotational return or a multi-inning reliever. He’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if he’s not added to the 40-player roster by November, so he’ll profile as short-term throwing depth if he’s healthy. He’s been on the disabled list since late April, but started his season with a 1.88 ERA and a stellar 31:6 strikeout ratio in 24 innings at Double-A.
Marceaux, a 2021 LSU third-round pick, ranked 20th in the Halos system at BA. While he usually works in the 90s with his fastball, he is credited with controlling a four-pitch shuffle. He spent his season as a 23-year-old in Double-A, working to a 4.88 ERA in 59 innings. The right-hander has a below-average strikeout rate of 17.1%, but has held his walks to a tidy 7.2% clip. He won’t be eligible for Rule 5 until after the 2024 campaign and looks set to be a deep starter.
To entice the Halos to part with those weapons, the Mets refunded almost all of Escobar’s $9.5 million salary. They pay a 110% side tax on that money. SNY’s Andy Martino reported this afternoon that New York is willing to spend on improving its farming system, either taking another team’s unwanted contract while scavenging minor league talent, or paying off some of their own. offers. They put that into action with today’s exchange.
Escobar’s contract contains a $9 million club option for next season with a $500,000 buyout. It looks likely that the Halos will opt for a buyout, although there is at least some flexibility to keep him if he gets a tear in the second half. The far bigger concern is hooking up an immediate veteran to help them through their injury issues.
That with no finance charge keeps their luxury tax number around $238 million, according to Roster Resource estimates — a few million north of the base $233 million threshold. They’ll surely be ready to get more aggressive as the deadline approaches if they’re still in the thick of the playoff race. Supporting the full-back of the rotation and/or adding help in midfield could be future goals for general manager Perry Minasian and his staff.
SNY’s Andy Martino first reported that the Mets were paying Escobar’s salary up to the league minimum.
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