Braves get glowing reviews of Gonzo trade (and is team set?)

Most believe the stability of Alex Gonzalez is what the Braves' need right now.

Most believe the stability of Alex Gonzalez is what the Braves need right now. (AP photo)

Since baseball’s “second half” starts tonight, with the Braves opening a series against Milwaukee, I figured we would just go all-baseball in this corner of the blogosphere this morning. Entry  No. 1: Most of the baseball world loves the Yunel Escobar-Alex Gonzalez trade from the Braves’ perspective.

I weighed in yesterday with my view. The deal likely helps the Braves today -- given Escobar is struggling and Gonzalez is a steady, even if offensively inconsistent, veteran who has played for a World Series team (Florida). The danger is that Gonzalez probably is only short-term for the Braves (he’s 33 and a free agent after next season) and Escobar (voted the team’s MVP last season) has seemingly limitless talent and could become the player the Braves once envisioned somewhere else.

Before I get to the clips, here’s my question for you: Do you believe Gonzalez represents the final piece the Braves need to get back to the World Series this season?

While you ponder the answer, here are some trade reviews:

♦ From ESPN’s Buster Olney, the best national baseball writer in the business, in my view:

An Atlanta teammate once had a birthday, and when Escobar offered best wishes, that teammate told Escobar he knew exactly what present he wanted from the shortstop: Just play hard today. That the Braves’ players came to view consistent effort from the 27-year-old infielder as a gift is not a great reflection on Escobar, especially given the reputation of the Atlanta clubhouse. It’s an easy place to exist, to thrive, and has been for many years. Bobby Cox likes players; some managers don’t. And the most prominent veterans on the team, like Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner and Brian McCann, are all reasonable and relatively laid back, tolerant of different personalities so long as the effort is there. And too many times, the effort from Escobar was not evident, which is why the Braves decided to trade a younger shortstop with a theoretically higher ceiling for a 33-year-old shortstop. Gonzalez has struggled to stay healthy at times, and he sometimes has a hard time finding his way on base. But he is steady defensively and less apt to make the kind of mental mistakes that Escobar was guilty of time after time after time. Gonzalez has power, and he can do damage, but above and beyond that, nobody is going to wonder whether he cares, whether he is going to play hard; this had become the daily question about Escobar.

♦ From Jeff Blair, long-time baseball writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail:

A shortstop. Of course it would have to be a shortstop. In his eight years as the Blue Jays’ general manager, J.P. Ricciardi had 19 different shortstops who started games. Nineteen. …  “We think he has a chance to be a core player,” [general manager] Alex Anthopoulos said after announcing he had acquired shortstop Escobar and pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes from the Atlanta Braves. To which I can only say, well, that would be a first. Because “core” player and Blue Jays shortstop don’t go together. The truth about this trade is that unless you’re a Braves fan, there is no reason to get too excited either way. Escobar has a ton of baggage, but as Anthopoulos said, so did Jose Bautista when he came to the Blue Jays from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Two things you need to know about baseball people: They all think they can reinvent the wheel, and if they’re going to misread a player, more often than not it will be a Latino. Remember how Pedro Martinez was too slight to hold up as a starting pitcher? That’s what the Los Angeles Dodgers thought about him, and they did Latin America better than most teams at that time. The two happiest people in all this? Gonzalez, who is now in a pennant race, and the Braves’ Bobby Cox, who is retiring as manager at the end of the season and is rid of a player he thought was lazy.

♦ From Danny Knobler of CBS Sports:

The Braves were sure Escobar was their shortstop for many years to come. They were so sure of it that even this spring, they were justifying the decision to include Elvis Andrus in the 2007 Mark Teixeira trade by saying that they never thought Andrus would unseat Escobar. Now, four months later, they’ve traded Escobar away, for a significantly older, but steady, journeyman. Huh? Hang on, because in another way, this Escobar-Gonzalez trade makes all the sense in the world. And not just because Gonzalez is leading Escobar in 2010 home runs, 17-0. The Red Sox will tell you how much last year’s midseason trade for Gonzalez stabilized their infield and was a huge key in carrying them to the playoffs. But let’s be serious. To trade 27-year-old Escobar for 33-year-old Gonzalez is to acknowledge that Escobar wasn’t becoming the player the Braves thought he was. More than that, it’s to acknowledge that Escobar just didn’t fit. There were the times [Escobar] was more concerned about his own errors than with whether the team was winning or losing. He may still develop into the player the Braves thought they had. The talent is there. The Blue Jays, still trying to build for some sort of future, can afford to take that chance.

♦From Andy Hutchins of  Sporting News:

It’s hard to argue that Escobar is worse at baseball than Gonzalez. Escobar’s got a much higher career Weighted On Base Average (.342 to .299) and had accrued more Wins Above Replacement in his three seasons in the majors (10.1) before 2010 than Gonzalez had in his 11 pre-2010 seasons (9.7). And then there’s the matter of age: Escobar is 27 and Gonzalez is 33. So swapping the two players and assorted spare parts would seem to be a trade the team receiving Escobar would win. And in the middle term, Toronto probably will. Escobar should produce more in the next two to three years for Toronto than Gonzalez will for the Braves. But the Braves might win it for now, because their objective is winning now. Gonzalez is more likely to help them do  that this year. 2010 has been his best year since 2003, and he’s swatted 17 homers and compiled an impressive .491 slugging percentage. These are the numbers that compensate for his chronically low on-base percentage (.296 this year, .294 career) and impatience at the plate.

♦From Dave Fuller of the Toronto Sun:

“It was, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos admitted, both “a risk and a gamble.” But he traded shortstop Gonzalez, who was having a near all-star season anyway, for a potential team MVP. Or, will shortstop Escobar, at 27 six years younger than Gonzalez, turn out to be just one more Blue Jays headache? A year ago, Escobar batted .299, with 26 doubles, 14 homers and 76 RBI — earning a team MVP citation from local writers covering the Braves. This season, those numbers tumbled. Anthopoulos is betting a change of scenery, a chance to play with an organization in a city where past Latin players “have thrived,” will blast Escobar out of his funk. Escobar, a Cuban, plays with a lot of emotion — which could, the GM said, make him an instant fan favorite. But, he can sulk a little, too, when things aren’t going his way. “If you look at the Cuban player, they play with a lot of flare, a lot of emotion, a lot of flash,” Anthopoulos said. “But I think it can be exciting for fans.”

I know most Braves fans had grown weary of Escobar’s antics and were overwhelmingly in favor the trade. So is it safe to say these reviews make you feel even better about the second half of the season?

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

Last 3 Braves posts

Gonzalez improves Braves now but dealing Escobar is risk

Braves are still waiting for Yunel Escobar to join their party

As Braves enter All-Star break, Wren is looking a lot smarter

146 comments Add your comment

IowaHawk

July 15th, 2010
9:51 am

IowaHawk

July 15th, 2010
9:52 am

I like the move for the immediate future. I still am waery about giving up such a potentially gifted player (escobar). I do like theat we are trying to improve our club and are being aggressive right now but anytime you let a player go who has proven capabale of carrying a ball club both offensively and defensively I always have a bit of hesisation. Hopefully Gonzo fits in great in the club house and we can make a run at this!

keith

July 15th, 2010
9:53 am

Yes, Jeff, the more I read, the more I like the deal. :)

keith

July 15th, 2010
9:54 am

A first for 3rd. I would have posted at the start of the read if I would have noticed there were 0 posts….

keith

July 15th, 2010
9:56 am

As far as the team being set, I say…..maybe.

But I think we will evaluate how Heyward bounces back during these next few games and how Mclouth does in AAA Gwinnett before we can say that we are not in need of an OF.

If Heyward is slow coming back, then maybe we try to grab an OF.

I think we definitely made the better of the deals if you consider the minor league prospects….the SS is speedy and the LH Pitcher has almost a 2:1 ratio in strikeouts per innings I believe…..

KornDawg

July 15th, 2010
9:56 am

I like the move, especially since Escobar hasn’t produced at all this year. He was always one of my favorite Braves, but lately, he’d come up to bat with runners on and you just knew he would hit into a double play. If he flourishes in Toronto, or elsewhere, more power to him. He wouldn’t be the first player do so after leaving Atlanta, nor will he be the last.

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gadawgs

July 15th, 2010
10:00 am

Jeff,
Absolutely, hands down. As Olney said this definately makes us the team to beat in the East. I am loving it and you will too!!!!!

WindyCityDawg

July 15th, 2010
10:00 am

The epitome of a win-now trade, which was absolutely necessary given that Chipper and Bobby are likely to retire. I love the trade. I don’t know much about the prospects we got, but the pundits had good things to say about them last night.

Jim Pierce

July 15th, 2010
10:01 am

Great trade. Even if we don’t get the offensive production we expect from Gonzales, this was “addition by subtraction” for the Braves. Personally I was tired of watching a brat with talent, not give his all, and his pouting was infantile. Glad he’s gone, but wish him well with his new team.

Cup of Craiggers

July 15th, 2010
10:01 am

Jeff, just so you know, Gonzalez has a 2011 option for $2.5 million.

Wren was quoted on some site to the effect of “this deal wouldn’t have happened if not for that option.”

Scott W.

July 15th, 2010
10:02 am

Yes he is a piece that is needed. As a Brave fan it has always been, wait till all the talent arrives in the big show. Now has to be that time. Heyward is the main piece we’ve been waiting for and still the talent in the minors is not tapped. Escobar has limitless talent but you can’t push someone to their fullest potential without their assistance.

keith

July 15th, 2010
10:03 am

Now how about a Corey Hart or Adam Dunn?

I know, that would be greedy, wouldn’t it? :)

Joe T

July 15th, 2010
10:03 am

All day yesterday, I was thinking this was probably a good trade. Escobar can be a hand-full mentally and he was, at times, a selfish player. Then, as I was going to bed, it hit me: Escobar may have come around in the second half this year and had a “monster” July/August/September. With all the excitement that is building around this team for the second half…….why not give him the benefit of the doubt. Because when he is hot, there is not better guy to have at the plate. What was he….third in the MLB last yeat with RISP and 2 outs. I am not sure; after thinking about it at length, that this is a good move. I hope so!!!

Iceman

July 15th, 2010
10:03 am

It’s a good move.

Techman

July 15th, 2010
10:04 am

I’m glad you found these but I read a lot of reviews that say the Blue Jays won the trade. However, I don’t think anyone said it was stupid.

I would’ve waited on Escobar but if the FO felt he was a negative (and based on reports, that appears to be an overwhelming consensus) then I appreciate them making the move and getting a very solid player in return.

honest_abe

July 15th, 2010
10:04 am

No… Add yunel to the list of atlanta athletes that find success (major) elsewhere!

Techman

July 15th, 2010
10:06 am

I would also add one writer had an issue with “reinventing the wheel”. Read Scouts Honor and learn how much effect managers and coaches have on players. I think it’s a good gamble for Toronto if you truly believe Escobar has the talent.

wayne smith

July 15th, 2010
10:06 am

well I must say,it was a shocker to me when I heard of the trade of yunel/gonzo.It only leads me to ask one question.. WHY? Gonzo is having a close to all star year for a shortstop and yunel has proven to be a struggling shortstop,not only offensive or defensive but his base running skills are one not to be desired.I am all for the trade and I think frank wren is not done as of yet.My hope is that he can go after a ace pitcher like dan haren/roy oswalt for derek loew and kawakami together.I have no confidence in D-loew nor is he good for the direction that the braves are headed.who wouldn’t want 2 for 1.kk just needs some more time in the states to improve on his stuff.He does have good stuff but he needs to know how to pitch american style.

Sleeze

July 15th, 2010
10:07 am

Which was the bigger risk for the Braves. Trading Escobar and losing his long-term potential.. or counting on him to be their shortshop of the future? I think the Braves made the right call here and got a shortshop they can count on for this pennant chase.

P Rose

July 15th, 2010
10:07 am

I liked the deal instantly upon hearing the news. Escobar has been the only weak link on an otherwise all-around solid team, in what is proving to be the club’s most important season in recent memory. I’m with Bobby on this one – I could tolerate the slumping average and zero home runs, but his careless neglect of the fundamentals is simply unforgivable.

P Rose

July 15th, 2010
10:10 am

To repeat the funniest blog I read yesterday: Totonto, enjoy the highlights – in his hair!

fire Paul Bewitt

July 15th, 2010
10:12 am

Yes, I like the trade but I don’t like everyone throwing Esco under the bus. The Braves management killed his spirit and fire when they told him to cool it are else. I do understand the Braves Clubhouse is different from all others and you conform are be gone. I hope the trade works for both team, We also got two pretty good player that will help down the road.

Now look for the Cody Ross deal before July 31. Braves and Fish have been talking a week or two per ESPN Insider.

bmob0407

July 15th, 2010
10:15 am

Just remember the braves have a 18 yr old kid that they are saying will be ready for the bigs by 2012 so they have another shortstop in waiting

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:16 am

IowaHawk — Terrific analysis.

Jake

July 15th, 2010
10:16 am

Escobar was around long enough for the Braves to have a pretty accurate read on what they had, and as Knobler said he wasn’t a Braves-type player. (Unlike, for example, Jermaine Dye, who was a Braves-type player; trading him was a major Scheurholz blunder.)

As a fan, I’ve marveled at Escobar’s ability and athleticism, but the fact that his attitude was still problematic makes it easier to let him go. If Anthopoulos thinks Escobar is “a high-energy player who brings a lot of passion and desire to the shortstop position,” he’s indulging in wishful thinking at best, and is delusional at worst.

I’m wary of the Braves corporate mentality when it comes to players, but in this case I think they did the right thing.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:16 am

Keith — not surprised.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:17 am

Keith — As my kids like to say, “Third place isn’t so bad, unless there’s only three people in the race.”

garcia

July 15th, 2010
10:18 am

This is a smart trade…….maybe for both teams. The statements above cite clearly why the Braves did the right thing. I certainly can not argue with the fact that Escobar was not likely going to snap out of his lousy attitude in Atlanta.

Here is why I think that Toronto made a good deal. The Blue Jays are not going to participate in the off season this year. With or without AG, they are a mediocre team. So, why not take a chance on a player that is cheaper and may have a bright future? They trade for a player that has all the talent in the world but plays with little or no heart. You have to ask yourself: why does Escobar behave this way? He has played for a manager that is universally loved by his players. He has been playing for a team that has a real shot at the WS this year. What is missing?

Yunel Escobar is a young man that grew up in Cuba. Despite living in the USA for years, he has a rudimentary grasp of the English language. That says a lot about his ability to adapt. He acts completely detached from his teammates. He is basically a loner. I know plenty of Cuban immigrants that assimilate into the American culture and thrive, but, there are a few that don’t ever seem to catch on. Those kind of immigrants are at constant odds with themselves. On one hand, they deeply miss their friends and family back home. Everything, even the little things, seem radically different and less enjoyable. They are not able to visit their home land to restore their “batteries”. So, with time, they become more and more angry. On the other hand, they reject the way a totalitarian government can control their lives. A return to that kind of life is not an option. They feel trapped.

People, like Yunel, don’t adapt well. In a beautiful city like Atlanta, Yunel probably doesn’t see the opportunities to live a happy life. All he sees is the bad. So, why would he feel better in Toronto? I can’t be sure, but my guess is that Cuba has a greater presence in Toronto than in Atlanta. After all, Canada has more open relations with Cuba. Heck, Yunel may find more kindred spirits in the Great White North than he did here. If he finds those kindred spirits in Toronto. His off the field live will improve and my guess is that his on the field performance will improve as well. So, optimistically, Yunel could pay off greatly for the Blue Jays, if he can find a better life.

That is a my amateur psychological evaluation.

As a Braves fan, I am happy about the trade and look forward to a great second half.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:19 am

Keith (again): No question Wren will wait to see how Heyward and McLouth perform in next 10 days to 2 weeks before deciding on whether to pursue a trade for an outfielder.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 15th, 2010
10:19 am

it will work out for the Braves, trust in Wren. Plus, who doesn’t like getting rid of JoJo and picking up 2 solid minor leaguers?

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:20 am

GaDawgs — I think Buster had Braves as NL favorites even BEFORE this trade actually. Seriously, he is the best around. He’s smart, can report, write and is one of the all-time great guys. Seldom do you get that grand slam in my business.

I like it

July 15th, 2010
10:21 am

I believe in the here and now. Braves are in the hunt ………… now. Escobar was not getting it done and the inconsistencies with him were dragging the team down.
We move forward ……………. that’s all.

Go Braves.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:21 am

Cub of Craiggers — Yeah I know. It’s an assumption that it’ll be picked up, which is why I said he’ll be a free agent after next season.

Jack

July 15th, 2010
10:22 am

I say let’s worry about next year, next year…. Let’s win the pennant this year and maybe even the World Series. This trade was necessary. It’s Frank Wren’s job to worry about next year or the subsequest years, and in my book he is definitely adept at doing that. Let’s win this year. We didn’t empty the farm system making this trade. I like that aspect.

Will this be all the moves we need to make? If Heywood’s thumb is healthy enough for him to start raking the ball again and if Diaz continues to rake the ball, then I say this is probably all of the big guns that we need; however I think we do need one more good bench guy. My guess is Wren is looking at McOut in two ways (assuming my point about Heywood and Diaz is correct): (1) he will show enought in the next couple of weeks to trade for more bench help; or,(2) McOut becomes the one-time all-star player they thought they got when trading for him. If this happen then his name changes back to McLouth and he stays.

Again, I don’t think McOut is the biggest piece of the puzzle. It’s the performances of Heywood and Diaz. If Wren is not satisfied with their performances in the next couple of weeks; then we see some prospects and a pitcher (and maybe McOut) go for a big bat.

I’m just a fan, so what the hell do I know….

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:24 am

Joe T — You’re absolutely right about last year.. Escobar hit .307 after the All-Star break last season, including .356 in July.

Bill Stanfill

July 15th, 2010
10:25 am

I’ve always liked Escobar, though I know at times he has been exasperating. He has made some plays at shortstop that are among the best I’ve ever seen. His loss of power at the plate, however, is hard to understand. I don’t think I’ve seen him hit a ball to the warning track all year.

I hope Escobar flourishes in Toronto, but I believe the Braves are a more solid team with Gonzalez. He’s reliable at shortstop and at the plate. And the Braves can certainly use a little more pop on offense.

Jo-Jo Reyes was going nowhere with the Braves. It’s best for him to have a fresh start with an organization that doesn’t have the kind of pitching depth that the Braves have. And the 2 minor leaguers that the Braves got–everything I’ve read and heard about them indicates that they are genuine prospects. They are both very young and they have been progressing nicely–good additions to our minor league talent pool.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:25 am

Techman — Reviews on “major” sights or fan blogs? Big difference. I’d like to see them if they’re legitimate.

Don

July 15th, 2010
10:25 am

Don’t get too excited – This is Alex Gonzalez – who in Eleven full seasons before this year has a career BA of less than .250, and OBA of .294, and has averaged less than 10 HR per year.
With Escobar’s great talent, odds are that under a new manager and hitting coach he will get squared away and will be one of the best shortstops in baseball for years to come. This may take a while, but odds are that we will really regret this move in the future.

Mr. Holmes

July 15th, 2010
10:26 am

Wasn’t impressed by Hutchins’ assertion in TSN that “it is very, very hard not to see … ‘cultural miscommunication’” (read: racism lite) having something to do with the trade. What a bunch of crap.

Indeed, just reading the public comments, if there’s any, ahem, cultural miscommunication here, it’s on the part of the Toronto GM: “If you look at the Cuban player, they play with a lot of flare, a lot of emotion, a lot of flash.”

Anyway, good trade for the Braves. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Escobar, who’s still young, gets his head on straight and backs up Jeter next year in the All-Star Game. But I’ll still take the better shot at the World Series *this year*, thank you very much.

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:27 am

P Rose — Funny “highlights” line.

Wanna B Gov.Barnes

July 15th, 2010
10:27 am

Rudimentary grasp for English? Son we have people born in USA that don’t have rudimentary grasp of English are the ABC’s. But if I’m re-elected I will make everyone read and write. I promise.
GO Braves and send the money………

Jeff Schultz

July 15th, 2010
10:28 am

fire Paul Bewitt — I’m with you. There’s a lot of piling on going on right now.

Jim M

July 15th, 2010
10:30 am

“I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. Everyone stops, points up and gasps “Oh look at that!” Then- whoosh, and I’m gone…and they’ll never see anything like it ever again… and they won’t be able to forget me- ever.

Jim M

July 15th, 2010
10:34 am

“I believe in a long, prolonged derangement of the senses to attain the unknown. Our pale reasoning hides the infinite from us.”

PMC

July 15th, 2010
10:35 am

Now and this year are the only thing that matters at the moment. I love this trade because of what it means for right now.

Gonzalez gives the team more pop right now and they get Collins as a further deal sweetner.

We can worry about next year later, right now the Atlanta Braves exist in the NOW and that is a great thing.

scottc

July 15th, 2010
10:37 am

This trade is far superior to the Texiara trade IMHO. That trade was also about winning it all this year, just as this one is that, too . . .DUH. But a couple reasons that this trade is far superior to that trade:

1) We knew we would not be able to afford Tex long term due to the presence of Boras and also due to the superstar that Tex is and his legitimate desire to get paid regardless of who his agent was, but with this trade we know we can sign Gonzo for another year or two if we can’t find a suitable fix from within . .and we still have immediate options from within, too, while at the time of the Tex trade, Freeman was still a long way off. But regardless, that is all a couple years down the road, and we have a REAL opportunity to win THIS YEAR.

2) Gonzo brings stability to the clubhouse in two ways–he is a Bobby Cox professional, and his arrival jettisons a head-case that needed to go for a multitude of reasons. Getting Tex here did not simultaneously result in eliminating a festering clubhouse problem that Esco had devolved into . . .ugh. Good riddance.

Look, i will give you this; Esco COULD very well be a legit all star for the next five years. But given his ego, his underlying insecurity, and his current slump that appears to be driven by a few factors and not just one, that is a big “could”. I think he has earned the “uncoachable” label far beyond Francour, who himself had legitimately earned that label during his time here and who needed a change of venue. But we just got back more that Ryan Church, and we gave up less to get it.

Smart shrewd trade. It’s almost a no brainer.

ExBraves Fan

July 15th, 2010
10:37 am

JEFF: Yes, Buster picked the Braves several days ago on ESPN to hang in for the East title. He thinks they need to hit more, but the arms are there, especially with JJ seemingly well.

As for Gonzo, I guess the All Start Super Sub will be the SS if Gonzo gets injured. There is nothing on the farm to bring up is there. Maybe Denis Menke, Sonny Jackson, or Jeff B. might still be available.

PMC

July 15th, 2010
10:37 am

All this said, no reason to kill Escobar on the way out of town. He was great at times here, he was a lot of fun to watch and I hope we still get to see him making plays and hitting well on Sportscenter. Best of luck to Yunel and thanks for being fun to watch.

PMC

July 15th, 2010
10:39 am

Collins inclusion makes this deal future sound. Wren and company have done an excellent job keeping an eye on the future and brining in talented young arms. You can’t fix everything at once.