We have had some good times with Alcides Escobar. While he may have been a frustrating offensive player at time, he has dazzled us with his defensive gems like this one, this one, and this one. Even the bat has come alive at times with his sizzling streak in the 2015 ALCS that caused him to be named MVP of that series, or the time he led off Game 1 of the World Series with an inside-the-park home run.
But Alcides Escobar is a free agent at the end of this season, and it appears his days in Kansas City may be drawing to a close. But not so fast! Last week in his Sunday notes column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says Escobar could be in Kansas City for awhile.
The Royals have their scouts scouring the farm systems of organizations they feel they might match up with in trades for pending free agents Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. The prevailing thought is the Royals can move Cain the easiest, but he’s the one they’d most like to keep. They will likely re-sign shortstop Alcides Escobar, whose contract also expires after the season.
Cafardo is a Boston reporter trying to make his name as a national news source, much in the way Peter Gammons rose to prominence a generation ago. In fairness, Cafardo has been right before - he picked up on the Royals’ interest in Jason Hammel and Brandon Moss before they were signed. He has also said the Royals were “likely” to re-sign Eric Hosmer, and were interested in bringing clubhouse irritant Danny Valencia back to Kansas City.
However, the report makes little sense to those that have been closely following the Royals. Escobar has been one of the worst hitters in baseball over the last four seasons, giving an already below-average Royals offense a black hole at the bottom (and sometimes top) of the lineup.
Escobar has never been a big hitter, but his calling card - defense - has been in decline the last few seasons as well. He has gone from being an excellent shortstop according to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), to being merely adequate (although the early metrics this year have him being excellent again). When paired with his weak offense, this has made Escobar barely above replacement level, according to Fangraphs.
His poor hitting should make him quite affordable this winter. On The Border Patrol on 810 WHB, Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger guessed Escobar would get something like a two-year, $7 million offer this winter. That seems easily within the Royals’ budget, why wouldn’t they bring him back?
The reason many feel Escobar’s days in Kansas City are numbered are the in-house options they have to replace him. Despite being overwhelmed in his Major League time thus far, Raúl Mondesí has the tools and potential to take over shortstop and exceed what Escobar could do in 2018. Not only that, but the Royals have developed a few shortstops in the system - Ramon Torres, Corey Toups, Nicky Lopez. While none of them are stud prospects, they have all played well enough to give the Royals some options at the position.
Still, don’t totally discount the possibility Esky remains in Kansas City. Dayton Moore is very loyal to the players that brought him a championship, and has long stressed defense up the middle. It is possible Escobar could be brought back - possibly to play second base, or to move Mondesí to second base. As Mellinger put it:
I’d still bet against it. He is bordering on unplayable offensively, even for a rebuilding team, and if Mondesi improves his pitch recognition and confidence at the plate you’d rather cut the cord and go with the young player.
But, yeah. I could see it.
The Royals had two stints with Yuniesky Betancourt, a player with obvious declining defensive skills and terrible on-base ability. It is entirely possible Alcides Escobar could return to the Royals to mentor Mondesí, provide depth, and to give them a leadoff hitter with his “Esky Magic” that is probably not even a real thing. Esky could come back. But it really doesn’t make much sense.
Will Alcides Escobar be in a Royals uniform in 2018?
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