Is Yunel Escobar a Possible Trade Acquisition?

May 23, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar (5) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Danny Knobler of CBS Sports wrote a piece yesterday that included an interesting nugget about shortstop Yunel Escobar:

[A] rival official said that the Jays are souring on shortstop Yunel Escobar, and suggested he could be on the move to make room for Adeiny Hechevarria. The original plan had been for Escobar to eventually shift to second base, but the thinking now is that the Blue Jays could prefer to move him to another team, instead.

If Knobler's report is accurate, Escobar might make sense as a trade acquisition for the Pirates. He's generally regarded as an above-average defender, and he was a strong offensive contributor in 2011, putting up a .290/.369/.413 batting line that was good for a 111 OPS+. Escobar's 2012 season numbers were wrecked by a slow start in March and April, but he's hit .284/.342/.373 in May and .265/.311/.378 in June, and as such it seems like he might be back on track. The 29-year-old Escobar is under contract for an affordable $5M per year in both 2012 and 2013, and his contract includes club options for 2014 and 2015 at that same value, so if things worked out he could be a significant building block for the future at a fairly low price.

Clint Barmes briefly showed some signs of life on offense in June, but he's hitting only .234/.263/.299 over the last 28 days, and it seems likely that Escobar would represent a substantial upgrade on the play of the Pirates' incumbent shortstop. Even after an Escobar acquisition, Barmes would still have the chance to earn a good amount of playing time as a backup at 2B, SS, and 3B, if his performance merited such consideration.

It's also worth noting that the Pirates match up well with Toronto as a potential trade partner. Starting pitching is the Pirates' greatest area of upper-level depth, and Toronto's rotation has been decimated by injuries this year. They currently have five starting pitchers on the 60-day disabled list (Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Jesse Litsch, Dustin McGowan, and Brandon Morrow), and last month were reduced to giving a pair of starts to Bucs castoff Jesse Chavez. Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is probably too shrewd to take Kevin Correia off our hands, but an upper-level SP prospect like Owens or Locke might be a good piece to use as the start of a discussion. Anthopoulos has also shown a willingness to take a chance on talented young players at odds with their team's management in his deals for Escobar and Colby Rasmus, and as such might be tempted by Jose Tabata.

I would be remiss if I didn't note the character concerns that are often mentioned regarding Escobar. Words like "attitude", "chemistry", and "intangibles" are frequently brought up in explanations of his trade out of Atlanta (see here and here, for example), and now if Knobler is to be believed, similar issues may be cropping up in Toronto. As outside observers, we can't really assess those kinds of things with any degree of accuracy, and we'd need to trust the Pirates to do their due diligence before pulling the trigger.

What do you think? Is it "yes" for Yunel, or are you cold on the Cuban shortstop? Hit the poll and weigh in.

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