The Hot Button: Should the Braves trade Yunel Escobar?

Yunel Escobar is, shall we say, a different sort of Brave. He has blond highlights in his hair. He doesn’t always pay attention. He has a temper and is given to the sulks. He has yet to respond to the gentle urgings of Bobby Cox, which have become less gentle over time.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Braves “are willing to trade Escobar for a good hitter right now.” (Link requires registration.) But I don’t think they will. Nor do I believe they should. Because Yunel Escobar is a different sort of Brave in another way:

He can really hit. And he can really play.

The Braves have become so skilled at siphoning off higher-maintenance types that they have lesser tolerance for one than do, say, the Yankees or the Dodgers. But sometimes a higher level of maintenance isn’t just needed but advisable. Some guys are worth the trouble. John Rocker was not. Yunel Escobar is.

He’s a great talent who comes with an inherent disconnect. He doesn’t speak much English. (He’s from Cuba.) When Cox seeks to instruct Escobar in the need to pay closer attention, he has to converse through coach Chino Cadahia. That isn’t the optimum method.

But you know what? If big-league rosters were comprised of 25 Ozzie Smiths, you wouldn’t need managers or coaches. Sometimes a little instruction is needed, sometimes even a lot of instruction

The Braves have this problem, the past two nights notwithstanding. (As bad as the Braves are at hitting, the Phillies are worse at pitching.) They can’t hit much, and they, as constituted, aren’t apt to hit much. At worst, Escobar is the third-best hitter on the club. If the Braves trade him, they’d have to get Matt Holliday or Brad Hawpe or Adam Dunn in return. And even if they’d land one of those thumpers, there’s another issue:

Should the Braves trade Yunel Escobar?

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Those guys are outfielders. Escobar is a shortstop. He mans the most important defensive position. And there’s no other shortstop prospect at the ready in the Braves’ chain. (There would be if the Braves hadn’t sent Elvis Andrus to Texas for Mark Teixeira in 2007, but that’s another Hot Button for another day.)

Put simply, Escobar is too important for the Braves to let him go or to let him fail. With his recent displays of anger and indifference and the mysterious nature of his hip injury, the temptation is great for them to throw up their corporate hands and say, “That’s it! Get him outta here!” But this is professional sports, not the Boys and Girls Club. The idea is to win, and the Braves need Escobar to have that chance.

The Braves have already gone the extra mile, but they should prepare themselves to run a 10K if that’s what it takes. He’s not as young as you might think — he’s 26 — and his excesses might be more deeply ingrained than in a 21-year-old. But that’s why managers get the big bucks. They’re paid to reach all their guys, not just the receptive ones.

There’s a big-time ballplayer beneath the garish hair and the excesses. The Braves just have to find him.

Update from the ballpark: Escobar is in tonight’s starting lineup. He’s batting fifth.

295 comments Add your comment

Mac

July 2nd, 2009
10:49 am

Amen. So far, Escobar has not been nearly the prima donna some others are. When his head is where it needs to be he’s very good defensively and offensively. His fire is good if channeled in the right direction. Plus, he’s still a kid, who should mature a bit over time. Keep him.

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 2nd, 2009
10:49 am

Like any other trade, it depends on what you can get for him.

Al Wood

July 2nd, 2009
10:51 am

First!

(it’s an inside joke. he’ll recognize it when he gets here.)

Mark Bradley

July 2nd, 2009
10:54 am

Well, yes. If the Cardinals offered Pujols for Escobar, I’d listen to that one.

Cletus

July 2nd, 2009
10:56 am

Maybe you are not as dumb as you appeared in the “greatest manager I have ever seen” blog.

Escobar is maybe our best player. He can hit AND field his position well. No one else does that on the Braves. Not even McCann, who is not so good a defensive catcher.

Escobar will be fine. He probably has never been associated with a team that loses this much and is having time adjusting.

If the Braves start winning, he will pay attention. That’s not the ideal situation, but when you only have one MLB-ready player at a position, you gotta take your lumps.

Mac

July 2nd, 2009
10:57 am

Nah, they’d have to throw in Wainwright, too.

I kid.

Jon Hughes

July 2nd, 2009
11:03 am

pujols, wainwright and a player to be named later and i am on board

brewdawg

July 2nd, 2009
11:05 am

I think the most over-rated need on a baseball team is a “good defensive catcher.” We’ve had those (and have one now in David Ross). But what we have in Brian McCann is a rare commodity- a bonafide slugging catcher. I don’t care if he struggles throwing out runners. He calls a good game, stops most would-be wild pitches, and swings a big-time bat. This is not a post directed at anybody, just a though I got reading Cletus’ post.

Tony

July 2nd, 2009
11:09 am

Keeping Escobar is a must. As mentioned in the blog, we have no major league-ready shortstop behind him to fill in. As good as Infante will be when he gets back, he only spot starts and does that well. Having said that, we still need a big bat in the line-up. Prado and Blanco have been recent sparks, but they’re not going to maintain this level all season. I’ve read blogs and articles about maybe trading Javy Vazquez. As much as I like him in a Braves uniform, that might not be a bad move to trade him. His value is higher now than it has ever been. Keep him another three weeks or so to make sure Hudson’s rehab is going well, then ship him off for a big bat. Kris Medlen could fill in the rotation until Hudson’s return.

coach smith

July 2nd, 2009
11:24 am

this thing keeps eating my post

Mitchell

July 2nd, 2009
11:26 am

What is the deal with Yunel Escobar anyway… or more to the point, what is everybody else’s deal with Yunel Escobar?

I don’t care how crazy or injured or non-injured he is, he’s one of the best players on the team. If he hasn’t fully matured in some people’s eyes you can’t say he hasn’t come into his own as a player. Okay, a hitter.

Hell, we need more guys like Yunel on this team. Do the Braves have any idea how boring they are? They are. They were boring even when they were winning. 1995 was the most boring, most anti-climactic World Series I’ve ever witnessed. Martin Prado’s game winning hit on Tuesday and the in-between-hop play he made to end that 1-0 game against Toronto were more exciting than the ‘95 World Series.

Let’s spread the crazy around a little. Lord knows Garret Anderson could use some.

Yunel for President. Oh wait, we already have one.

coach smith

July 2nd, 2009
11:26 am

Mark B,

I could not AGREE MORE

ESCOBAR is a 300+ clutch hitter with a rocket arm, good defense and is likely to develop into a 20-30 HR guy

Those are FEW and FAR between

To trade him you’d have to get an ALL-STAR player AND another “good” player (potential starter)

Derek

July 2nd, 2009
11:27 am

Go ahead and trade him for a Hawpe or Holliday. Start Infante in the SS spot, start Hawpe/Holliday at RF and put Francoeur on the trade block too, get an excellent middle reliever or a 2B with some pop, like Uggla or Kinsler (!!) and assign Soriano to the CL role. BRAVES WIN!! BRAVES WIN!! BRAVES WIN!!

mountain_jim

July 2nd, 2009
11:33 am

How about the skinny on exactly what’s going on right now. Is he hurt, or is he saying he’s hurt because his feelings are, or is he being punished for previous issues? Everybody’s talking around the situation but where’s the reportage of the details?

Dawgdad

July 2nd, 2009
11:34 am

I think the problem may be Chino. I feel confident that Pat Corrales could get Yunels attention. We need Yunel and need to get him focused on getting even better.

Dawgdad

July 2nd, 2009
11:34 am

Enter your comments here

nolan

July 2nd, 2009
11:35 am

Get rid of Escobar NOW!!!! He is a cancer. This is PROFESSIONAL Baseball. Let somebody else baby sit him. Baseball is a team sport. He is not a team guy. Infante can play short and hit just as well as Escobar.

coach smith

July 2nd, 2009
11:39 am

Nolan

Surely you are kidding!

i love INFANTE but he will neve be the player ECOBAR can/is

Gman

July 2nd, 2009
11:40 am

I was excited when the Braves called up Escobar and still like him. He is a good player and a very good situational hitter. Before this year, I honestly hadn’t noticed he was such a problem until this year.

It also seems like there have been inferences from insiders that he has been physically ready to play these last few games but has elected to remain on the bench. Am I misreading the reports or is there a legitimate concern that he has decided to sulk on the bench. If true, then it doesn’t matter if we like him or not, he has effectively quit.

Keeper

July 2nd, 2009
11:42 am

Could be worse – we could be stuck with that aging fossil of a shortstop who everyone was so upset about this winter. Forget his name, something like Furball, Fooker …

Don’t think it’s time to trade Yunel for his youthful indiscretions, but I also wouldn’t be opposed to sending him to Lower South Carolina (aka north Gwinnett) for a few days to rehab. Whether that’s rehabbing the strain in his hip or his cranium.

Adam

July 2nd, 2009
11:43 am

I have been saying it all along — BRING BACK PAT CORRALES!

He can be the Escobar/Bench coach. He can be to Escobar what Terry Robiskie is to Roddy White!

Losers Drive Mini-Vans

July 2nd, 2009
11:46 am

After watching Escobar play 2nd Base (quite poorly) in person at Turner Field over the last week or so, it is now painfully obvious why Castro let him go with little to no resistance.

So what if Escobar can hit?

Bobby Cox can still hit, too.

Right, Mrs. Cox?

Willie Coyote

July 2nd, 2009
11:49 am

He’ll be fine or he won’t; it’s up to him. I don’t think he’s half the problem some are making him out to be but then again, I’m not in the clubhouse. The Braves have to realize that not everyone is going to fit in that reserved (almost indifferent mode) that they are used to. With their history of goodness that never quite got to greatness, that may be a good thing.

webhead

July 2nd, 2009
11:50 am

It’s time for him to go. If the Braves’ future is him, then it’s not very bright. He will become a cancer on this team if not now in the future. Get something good for him now rather than wait when his value is lower.

Mark's been consistent

July 2nd, 2009
11:50 am

If he’s saying that Bobby is one of the great managers of baseball then he’s right to stick to his guns and say its Bobby’s job to right the ship. Its the tough times that show what youre truly made of. To toss a talent like Yunel out of the door because of a few mental lapses is crazy.Especially after seeing the same botched rundowns and overzealous base running when he isnt even in the game. Its not like he outright quit like Manny, which even before that episode the RedSox were willing to put up with Manny being Manny and Yunel doesnt come close to that foolishness. I agree with Mark, its on Bobby to get this right. I dont want to see Yunel go to another club. Thats too much potential to give up on.

Hoof Hearted

July 2nd, 2009
11:51 am

I don’t know where all of this “sulking on the bench” stuff is coming from. I guess those folks didn’t see who was the first person in the Braves’ dugout to jump up, smile, high-five, and hug the replacement short stop Hernandez after he hit his first major league home run last night. Yup, it was Yunel.

Bill

July 2nd, 2009
11:55 am

Keep Esco and Vazquez. Braves have other players that need to be traded. Love Esco’s fire, some of the other players need to get fired up.

f leghorn

July 2nd, 2009
11:56 am

So, his English is not so good? How long is it going to take for him to learn to communicate with the vast majority of his teammates? I’m caught up on players who play here for years, make pretty good money, and never learn English. That goes for golfers, too.

Mark Bradley

July 2nd, 2009
11:58 am

I said it then, and I’ll say it again: The Braves were very fortunate that Rafael Furcal stiffed them.

Dawgdad

July 2nd, 2009
12:02 pm

If we can’t get Pat Corrales back, hire Julio Franco to come school Yunel for a few months. If we can hire someone to translate for KK, we can hire someone to preach to Yunel.

wxwax

July 2nd, 2009
12:03 pm

I’m surprised that after all these years coaching players from Latin America, Bobby Cox hasn’t learned to speak Spanish. I wonder why?

Supes

July 2nd, 2009
12:03 pm

Braves should keep Yunel.

Bobby Cox should retire. That would ease the tension in 2010 without Bobby there to pick on Yunel and cottle his “favorites”, like KJ and Jeff.

Yunel is a talanted player who cares about winning and plays with raw emotion, unlike half of our lackadasical “veterans” like LOAF!

Bill

July 2nd, 2009
12:03 pm

Loser mini van, Castro didn’t let him go. Its called defection…he wanted his freedom.

braves70

July 2nd, 2009
12:04 pm

While Escobar has his faults, maybe the real problem lies with Bobby Cox and his inability to handle modern players. This ain’t the 70’s anymore. Times have changed, younger players have changed, but Bobby Cox remains his old stubborn self. Bobby Cox is a dinosaur who has outlived his time.

Floyd

July 2nd, 2009
12:04 pm

Brewdawg, you make a good point. Look through history and the only Hall of Fame catcher known for stellar defense in addition to swinging a great bat is Johnny Bench. Arguably, Fisk…but his offensive numbers were more the product of longevitiy than true greatness at the plate, in my opinion.

All the rest – Piazza, Berra, Gary Carter, Pudge, Munson, just to name a few – they all hit their way to greatness with average defensive skills.

There are a ton of incredible defensive catchers who’ve never been deemed great because their offensive skills were average…Boone, Yeager, Dempsey, Porter, Simmons…it’s a long list.

I’ll take a catcher with average defensive skills who can hit the ball over a great defensive catcher with paltry offensive production any day of the week. At this point in his career, McCann’s numbers are shaping up favorably to some of the best catchers of all-time.

Not missed.

July 2nd, 2009
12:05 pm

Have the Braves really missed Yunel over the last 5 games? His absence hasn’t been noticeable. Let’s not get crazy. The Braves can live without a B+ player. He’s not the 3rd best player, he’s the 4th (McCann, McLouth, and Larry). Let’s not get carried away. It’s not Manny. He’s not worth the headache.

Melvin Burson

July 2nd, 2009
12:07 pm

The Braves should get rid Esobar for one reason he can’t field his position. What ever he give you with his bat he gives away double with his glove. The Braves are built on good pitching on don’t need a glove this shaky in the middle of the defense

Jan

July 2nd, 2009
12:07 pm

Gotta love Escobar…the man has fire and he can PLAY THE GAME. I would rather have 9 Escobar’s on the field than 1 Kelly Johnson. Yea, he’s petulant and lets things bother him. But I’ve also seen him put his hand on his chest and acknowledge that a mistake was his fault. He isn’t looking a father figure and when BC realizes that and lets the man play life will be good. I think the English is an excuse for BC. When the camera sends a dugout shot there are times when Escobar is conversing with teammates. BC wants to micro-manage E. Let the man play, Bobby, he’s one of the few bright spots on this dull, losing team. Maybe Joe Simpson can share some of his wrath about E on someone who truly deserves it—Kelly Johnson, Mr. Ham Hands himself. Just read where KJ wants to help the team anyway he can and cites as a defensive replacement as a qualification. Yikes…the man is delusional. He could help the team by going to AAA and work on fundamentals–for about 4 years.

Sonny Clusters

July 2nd, 2009
12:08 pm

When we was playing ball together we would not like sulking in the dugout like Rudy Estrich did on our team when he got pulled by Coach for not moving a runner over when he got the sign. I was in the locker room changing into my lucky underpants before I came up to bat and Jeff was already in his lucky underpants. He was on deck and I was in the hole and neither one of us would talk to Rudy because Rudy was sulking. That’s exactly what is wrong with the Braves.

Bill

July 2nd, 2009
12:12 pm

Maybe Braves should hire Jose Oquendo as new manager and make Bobby another VP.

Oquendo is fluent in Spanish and English, very smart and sharp guy.

Curtis Jones

July 2nd, 2009
12:14 pm

“the mysterious nature of his hip injury…” Mark, that’s a good point. And I’m disappointed that you and the other AJC writers have not solved that mystery. There have been all sorts of conflicting stories in local and national media, and no one yet has gotten to the bottom of whether Yunel’s hip, or lip have kept him out of the lineup. Love your blogs, but dig a little deeper, do some reporting, and solve this “mystery” once and for all.

Stotts Era

July 2nd, 2009
12:14 pm

trading escobar would definitely be crazy, he is one of our best 3 position players and a definite major league caliber talent. people that don’t like his attitude need a reality check

jimmy

July 2nd, 2009
12:15 pm

send him to a english teacher,schedule weekly sessions with ms manners

Escobar Rocks

July 2nd, 2009
12:15 pm

Thank you!!! I agree with everything you said in this article. One of the reasons that Escobar is my favorite player is that he IS a different breed of Brave. He is isn’t white collar boring like so many of the other players before him. While his antics after he was incorrectly charged with an error were appalling he still is one of the most talented shortstops that the Braves have ever had. Until his problems with the hip injury this year he was just as talented defensively as offensively. For those of you who think that he isn’t very good defensively or is loafing please try to play shortstop in you rec league with a strained hip flexor. You would then understand what he is trying to play through.

When I first read the Olney article I was concerned that the Braves might actually trade Esco…..then I realized who the writer was. It was the same one who said that the Braves were pursuing Brad Penny. ’nuff said.

dantheman

July 2nd, 2009
12:15 pm

You gave me another perspective to think about. Good article, my buddies & I at work were just debating the pros & cons of Escobar, with the negatives in the majority.

Mark Bradley

July 2nd, 2009
12:15 pm

Jose Oquendo will be a manager very soon. And a good one, I believe.

SlimG

July 2nd, 2009
12:16 pm

All players respond to playing time. With the NL East as bad as it seems this year, we have time to live with the Escobar and Franceor? problems of recent. Let’s not hit the panic button. Just sit these guys for a few games or more and then see how they like it. Other players giving them a hard time might work wonders with these two ballers. Both in my opinion are good players who can help us in the future. Truth be told, we rushed both because of our lack of talent.

thomas

July 2nd, 2009
12:17 pm

the braves have no other option at shortstop, i see no way that we could trade him. as said above he is one of our best hitters, and the braves need bats. we have won 3 in a row and if we can win 7 or 8 of the next 10 we will be right where we want to. let yunel stick it out and if it really is impossible to work out then we better get one hell of a hitter in return.

Mark Bradley

July 2nd, 2009
12:17 pm

Thanks, Dan. Thanks, Escobar Rocks.

Sherman

July 2nd, 2009
12:18 pm

Hell naw!!! We’re always letting go or trading away minority players! This team will not be satisfied until it’s 100% all-american white-bread! You wonder why the African Americans of this city don’t support this team. Because all the black players are let go, never signed or traded away. TAKE THIS STORY DOWN MARK!!!