The Brewers need to improve their production at the hot corner. On the trade market, Eduardo Escobar might be the best available option.
Outside of Nolan Arenado, there’s unlikely to be a third baseman on the trade market that can more of an immediate impact than Eduardo Escobar. The Brewers are not going to be able to trade for Arenado given his contract, so Escobar should be the main target on the Crew’s radar.
Brewers President of Baseball Ops David Stearns has publicly stated that his team’s biggest needs are at the corner infield spots and that they will look for offensive upgrades at those positions.
Despite a down year offensively for Escobar in 2020, which was something that afflicted a lot of good hitters across the league, he remains a valuable trade target.
Who Is Eduardo Escobar?
After spending a number of years with the Minnesota Twins playing all over the infield, Escobar earned the starting third base job in 2018, and then was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in July of that year.
Escobar hit .272 with 48 doubles, 23 homers, and an .824 OPS in that 2018 season.
Because he played well for Arizona down the stretch, they signed him to a three year, $21MM contract extension after that season.
In 2019, the first year of that new deal, Escobar posted some career-best numbers. In 158 games, Escobar hit .269/.320/.511 with 29 doubles, a league-leading 10 triples, 35 home runs, 118 RBIs, an .831 OPS, and a 110 OPS+.
However in 2020, Escobar hit just .212/.270/.335 with seven doubles and four homers. Like many across the league, his offensive numbers tumbled in 2020. But how much stock can be put into that?
For the two previous 162 game seasons, Escobar hit a combined .270 with a 114 OPS+ and 58 home runs. Is that the real Escobar that is going to be return in 2021? Or is Escobar already beginning his career decline at… 31 years old?
The Venezuelan-born infielder will turn 32 years old in January and is entering the final year of his contract. His salary for 2021 is set at $7.6MM and he’ll be a free agent after next year.
What Could An Eduardo Escobar Trade Look Like?
With Escobar being a one-year rental, that means a couple of things. It means the Brewers would have to be in the market for a third baseman once again next year if they make this trade, but also the acquisition cost is going to be lower in terms of the prospects that would need to be given up. In addition, the Brewers would not be stuck in a long-term relationship even if Escobar doesn’t work out.
Also, the Diamondbacks just finished in the bottom of the standings in the NL West and might be starting a retooling effort. While a $7.6MM salary seems like a hefty sum given the limited payroll the Brewers have to work with themselves, perhaps they can get Arizona to kick in a million dollars or two to help pay down the salary and that might improve the prospect they would get in return.
Getting Eduardo Escobar would not cost the Brewers one of their top prospects like Garrett Mitchell or Ethan Small, but rather someone further down the Brewers top 30 list. Once again, depending on how much, if any, money the D-Backs kick in, that prospect or prospects going back could get better or worse.
The Diamondbacks currently have their top-rated catching prospect, Daulton Varsho, playing centerfield. Although Varsho has good speed for a catcher, that hardly seems like an ideal scenario for both Arizona and Varsho.
Perhaps adding someone like Corey Ray could help Arizona’s centerfield situation. The former first round pick is on the Crew’s 40 man roster and is blocked in centerfield by Lorenzo Cain. It might be good for both Ray and the Brewers for Ray to have a change of scenery. Ray has a ton of potential, but the Brewers haven’t been able to get it out of him.
It certainly seems worth the risk for Arizona to take a chance on Ray finding his form in a trade of Escobar, who’s in the final year of his deal and who’s salary seems too expensive to keep given their team’s circumstances.
Whether something like this can come together remains to be seen. But the Brewers are looking at offensive upgrades on both the trade and free agent market. Stearns has reportedly dangled some of his pitching depth in these trade talks, but if he can add to his big league roster without dealing from his strong pitching group, that’s something that might be preferable.
This offseason is probably going to go slowly, so don’t expect a resolution on the trade front or in free agency very soon.