More Unfounded Trade Speculation (a.k.a. Something to Discuss Other Than 2012)

Trade speculation du jour: Yunel Escobar to Cleveland for Asdrubal Cabrera

(Totally speculative on my part – just to give us something to discuss other than the Jays’ 2012 season!)

The Players

Yunel – plays SS. 2.3 WAR in 2012 (all WAR figures per Baseball Reference). Total WAR in last 3 years = 7.6. Signed for 2013-2015 @ $5 million per year.

Asdrubal – plays SS/2B. 2.8 WAR (per Baseball Reference) in 2012. Total WAR in last 3 years = 8.6, mostly due to his bat. Signed for 2013 @ $6.5 million and 2013 @ $10 million.

The Needs

Toronto is grooming Adeiny Hechavarria to start at SS. He is projected to be a far-above-average defender, but an average hitter at best. Kelly Johnson is expected to leave as a free agent after 2012, and the Jays have no immediate 2B prospect in their system (short of converting Escobar). So the Jays need a 2B who can hit, with at least decent defence, and who is under control for at least 2 years.

Cleveland is looking to shed salaries. Assuming that they keep Justin Masterson, they also need to improve their infield defense to support his evolution into a sinkerball pitcher. So what they need is a relatively cheap, cost-controlled SS with strong dWAR and some offensive upside. Escobar’s 2012 dWAR of 2.3 is tied for 8th best in the majors. And while his 2012 OPS of .638 is not particularly good, his .782 OPS and 3.7 oWAR in 2011 were excellent for a SS.

The value proposition

Yunel is under control for three years for an aggregate salary of $15 million. If he produces at the same level as his 3-year average, he will generate a WAR of 7.6 for a value (at a rate of $5 million per win) of roughly $38 million. His excess value would accordingly be $23 million.

Asdrubal is under control for two years at $16.5 million. Assuming that he can produce for those two years at his 3-year average of a WAR of 2.9, and using the same $5 million per win, he would generate total value of $29 million and excess value of roughly $13 million.

Why should the Jays consider it?

It is not at all certain that Yunel would be happy moving to 2B, or that he would be as successful there as he has been at SS. And Hechavarria’s defensive skills would be wasted at 2B. So they Jays have two major-league calibre SS and no 2B.

There is also the question of Yunel’s behaviour, including the recent incident with the gay slur. It is very possible that he has worn out his welcome in Toronto. If so, it would be to both the team’s and his own benefit for him to get a fresh start elsewhere.

Why should Cleveland consider it?

Yunel will cost just over one-half of what Asdrubal will cost over the next three years. And two of Yunel’s years are team options – so if he melts down completely, the Indians can escape with paying even less. Furthermore, Yunel has significant upside – his 4.4 WAR in 2011 is higher than Cabrera earned in any year except 2011.

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