Yesterday the Royals signed Alcides Escobar to a four-year contract through 2015, with two club option years tacked on. (Remember when Dayton's contract signature was the minute playing time bonus schedules? He's milked the club option thing hard in the last few years, which, from the team's perspective is a very good thing.) The deal covers his age 25-28 seasons.
The annual breakdown:
- 2012: $1 million
- 2013: $3 million
- 2014: $3 million
- 2015: $3 million
- 2016: $5.25 million (club option, $500,000 buyout)
- 2017: $6.5 million (club option, $500,000 buyout)
The deal has immediately evoked the Salvador Perez extension, in which the Royals "lock up" a player that projects to be, most likely, an average contributor, for reasonable money, for a long time. In both cases, the extent to which the contract is actually an extension, is complicated by the fact that the player was already under team control for years to come. I know that was my reaction.
However, compared to Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar is Omar Vizquel. Perez had 150 career PAs to his name. Escobar has accumulated 1288 PAs, and has nearly twice as many career hits as The Perezence had PAs.
In those 1288 PAs, he hasn't exactly set the world on fire. The holder of a .252/.294/.339 line. This is really right on the edge of playability, and only just so. However, thanks to the fact that he's a shortstop and a good one defensively, Escobar is playable. There is a wide consensus that he's one of the best defensive shortstops in the AL.
However, as I've argued many times, we really don't know how valuable he truly is. I'm willing to go with "one of the best" but what does that actually mean? On the offensive side of the ledger, we can measure things so much more precisely, giving us a true sense of scale. We now just how far the gap was between player number 1 and player number 5. There's nothing approaching that defensively, so we end up with a mental universe in which everyone's own favorite slick-gloved SS is obviously hugely more valuable than everyone else's and saves a zillion runs per game. Anyway, this is a topic for another day, at least broadly. Although, to conclude, I do contend that there's a good amount of hyperbole surrounding Escobar's true defensive impact. And now, we'll hear it for years to come.
Nevertheless, the money here remains so small, it's hard to be too negative. My guess is that Escobar will have one or maybe two seasons where he posts a high batting average due to luck err I mean Seitzer's latest awesome instruction, and turns into a really valuable player. Of course, that could also go the other way.