With a need for a second baseman, the Washington Nationals acquired Yunel Escobar from the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday for relief pitcher Tyler Clippard.
And although Escobar has played the shortstop position for most of his career in the majors, he did play second base during his rookie year in 2007 with the Atlanta Braves.
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Escobar will likely take the spot of current second baseman Danny Espinosa, who played in 114 games last season after only 44 in 2013. Neither Escobar nor Espinosa are power hitters – Escobar hit 16 home runs the last two seasons while Espinosa hit 11 – and neither batter is the most consistent hitter.
But despite a significant drop in batting average since his 2011 season in Toronto when he batted .290, Escobar has still been a more of a threat than Espinosa at the plate. After hitting .253 in 2012, Escobar’s average has gone up each of the last two seasons from .256 to .258, respectively.
Espinosa, on the other hand, has never batted higher than .247, which came during the 2012 season.
The trade also gives the Nationals a security blanket for the future, should the team fail to keep current shortstop Ian Desmond after next year, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Should Desmond leave The District, the Nationals can put Escobar back at shortstop and either put Espinosa at second, or explore other options.
But Desmond has been one of Washington’s most consistent players over the past several seasons, and keeping him will most certainly be a top priority for management, unless the money doesn’t equal the production in management’s eyes.
And while this move gives Washington options with its infield, it does leave a hole in the pitching staff.
Clippard has been a steady workhorse in relief of the starters, as he’s made appearances in at least 70 games since the 2010 season. After his ERA climbed from 1.83 in 2011 to 3.72 in 2012, he’s allowed less earned runs in each of the last two seasons (19 and 17 total earned runs in 2013 and ’14, respectively).
Finding a middle reliever to replace Clippard may have to come outside of the current relief staff, as neither Craig Stammen nor Jerry Blevins have performed nearly as well as Clippard.
But for now, the Nationals have solidified their infield.