The Oakland Athletics have a gaping hole at shortstop and a weak free agent market to deal with at that position.
The Miami Marlins happen to have a spare shortstop in Yunel Escobar. It makes sense then that the two clubs spent part of the day Monday discussing a possible trade that would ship Escobar to the AL West Champs.
Escobar is currently slated to play third base for the Marlins, but that assumes he’ll still be in South Florida when the season begins. He’s been a shortstop his entire career and he’s a good one defensively. Escobar is talented, but has been labeled as anything from immature to a clubhouse cancer.
He’s also coming off a very disappointing season at the plate; one which saw him post an OBP of just .300, 53 points below his career number. But at just 30 years old and one season removed from a .290/.369/.413 line, Escobar is drawing interest from a handful of teams despite his reputation.
While the A’s have a definite need and Escobar’s $5 million salary fits well within their budget, Oakland is continuing talks with free agent Stephen Drew, who came over to the A’s via trade last season. The A’s and Drew’s representatives will meet at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday.
Drew is just about six months younger than Escobar and coming off an equally disappointing season at the plate. He has a reputation as a solid defender, but is still recovering from a broken ankle that has limited his range in the field and sapped his power at the plate. Nevertheless, Drew is likely to earn much more than the $5 million Escobar is set to make, and with a much longer commitment.
All things being equal, Escobar is the better player at this point in their careers, but all things are not equal when considering Escobar’s checkered past. The Cuban-born Escobar needs a strong clubhouse around him. Should he land in Oakland, he would have a countryman in Yoenis Cespedes, which may help the shortstop mature a bit.