Posted by Lance Burson on July 14th, 2010
The Braves were going to make changes to the roster in the second half of the season. While they hold solid leads over the Mets and Phillies, it was apparent to thos who watched the Braves closely, upgrades to the offense would be needed, but the outfield was thought to be the focus. During the Mets series, Frank Wren and Bobby Cox decided that the shortstop shoe needed to drop first.
Yunel Escobar is a talented big league player. He can make beautiful plays in the field. He can run the bases with grace. He can work a pitcher to a 3-2 count, then take his best pitch and gap a double. What Yunel Escobar could not do, at least for the Braves, was grow up. During this last Mets series he hit a ball deep in the gap and was almost thrown out at second, With his speed he should have rounded third, yet he was admiring his work. Then he took a routine ground ball, charged it and casually flipped the throw into a running Jeff Francouer causing Troy Glaus to injure his wrist in the collision with the former Brave. That was Yunel. Good player who did dumb stuff. He would make a great play at short, then throw ridiculously to a base. he would miss signs then hit balls no one else could by waiting on pitches. He would jump up and down in the on deck circle, last year he injured himself and missed 16 games. Yunel would beg out of the lineup with minor injuries while his teammates would patch themselves with athletic tape and bandaids and play through pain. He would often show up later than anyone else for batting pratice, then take extra cuts without asking. Yunel was a loner in the clubhouse.In 2007 and 2008 when he did this, it was fine. He was producing and helping the team win. His numbers were excellent. In 2009, it looked like he was taking the step to superstardom then small, weird injuries caused him to miss games. For the first 80 games of 2010, Yunel wasn’t producing. His average was consistently below .240. His slugging disappeared. For every one good at bat, he’d have 4 awful ones. Then the non hustling and the stupid stuff happened.
This year’s Braves roster is different. People are getting along. The Francouer stress is in New York. The veterans are in your face good ole boys Billy Wagner, Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske, and Chipper Jones. Yunel’s time was short.
Toronto took a phone call. That were willing to give Yunel a try. Alex Gonzales is 6 years older, 33, but having his best offensive year with 17 homeruns and over 50 rbi. Gonzalez is a short term fit waiting for shortstop prospects to get here in 2012. Gonzalez’ contract calls for a reasonable 2011 option of 2.5 million dollars. The prospects swapped seem bright. Jo Jo Reyes, who was never making the Braves rotation, is now gone.
Short term, this deal helps Atlanta a lot. The Yunel distraction is gone. A real pro, who too impatient at the plate, but plays hard and professionally takes over at short for at least a year. Long term this deal could be bad, especially if Yunel grows up and turns into a Hanley Ramirez talent for the Blue Jays.
I hope outfield help is on the way. The first move is a shocker. It works right now for this team.