He was petulant and pouty at times, but the Braves would not have traded Yunel Escobar if the shortstop played in the first half last season like he has for Toronto this season.
Escobar is back in town with the Blue Jays, his first trip to Atlanta since being traded along with left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes to Toronto at the All-Star break last season for shortstop Alex Gonzalez, shortstop prospect Tyler Pastornicky and since-traded lefty prospect Tim Collins.
Reyes will start Wednesday’s series finale for the Blue Jays against his former team.
Escobar hit .280 with a .357 on-base percentage, eight homers and 26 RBIs in 67 games before Monday, including .309 with six homers and a .395 OBP in his past 36 games. He signed a two-year, $10 million contract extension last week.
In his final 135 games for Atlanta, he hit .259 with three homers, 38 RBIs, a .358 OBP and .320 slugging percentage (.678 OPS).
If he had performed better, the Braves might have lived with his attitude and some on-field incidents that upset some teammates and coaches almost as much as they irked opponents.
“I’ve got a good relationship with him,” Braves left fielder Martin Prado said. “But probably other people didn’t think the same way I did. The thing for me is, he was quiet in the locker room. He’s not a guy who’s going to talk to you every day. But when the time came to play, he played hard every day. I’m not the right person to tell you [what went wrong].”
Some have assumed that veteran Chipper Jones pushed for Escobar to be traded, but the third baseman actually was one of Escobar’s most outspoken supporters for most of his career with the Braves.
“I think it probably worked out good for both sides,” Jones said. “I think maybe he might have needed a chance of scenery, may have needed to go somewhere where there were some influential Latin players who could, you know, show him the way and how it’s done.
“It worked out good for him. He got an extension with Toronto. But I never wanted Yunel to leave. I’ve been a big fan of Yunel all along, because the guy’s a good player. You figured if if he maybe turned the corner maturity-wise, that he could be a perennial All-Star. I really felt that way. It’s unfortunate how it worked out, but maybe it worked out for the best for both sides.”
Prado said, “I’m glad he’s doing well, and I know for sure it’s going to be like that for a long time. Because he works hard. I’m happy for him. When it seems like he’s feeling better with that team, that’s all that matters. If you feel fine, you feel good with a team and around people, you take advantage and you can succeed.”