Between now and the 2021 MLB trade deadline, nearly every prominent baseball blogger will make the case for their team to pursue Diamondbacks infielder Eduardo Escobar. He checks all the boxes as a pending free agent with defensive versatility, great production in his recent past (2019) and a solid track record prior to that. Escobar is experienced yet not too old, allowing us to dream of a scenario in which he turns back the clock and meaningfully improves his new squad down the stretch. Plus the cherry on top: “he seems like a good guy.”
Why would the D-backs get rid of him? Because this is already a lost season for them. As of this writing, they are the only National League team with less than 20 wins, and that will still be true by the time you read this because the Mets will beat them on Monday night (update: they did).
The following proposal marks the debut of a Fish Stripes weekly series in which I manufacture Marlins trades that could hypothetically transpire right now.
THE MARLINS GET...
With Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson both out for the foreseeable future due to injuries, the Marlins infield is in shambles. They’re too reliant on José Devers and Isan Díaz, especially the former who should still be honing his craft in the minors at age 21.
A league-average hitter with familiarity at multiple infield positions would solve so much for the Fish. That’s what they’d be getting in Escobar.
Entering play on Tuesday, the switch-hitting Venezuelan has produced a .235/.281/.465 slash line (101 wRC+) in his age-32 season, contributing 0.8 fWAR/1.1 rWAR. He is not that far removed from a pair of three-win campaigns in 2018 and 2019.
Although injury history is seldom predictive, Escobar hasn’t been on the IL in more than five years. He ranks eighth in the majors with 417 games played since 2018.
Initially, the Marlins’ infield alignment could be Jesús Aguilar/Garrett Cooper at first base, Jon Berti/Isan Díaz at second base, Jazz Chisholm Jr. at shortstop and Escobar at third. If Rojas or Anderson returns, that’d free up Berti to reclaim his super utility role. If Rojas and Anderson both return, that’d be a great problem to have.
As mentioned in the introduction, Escobar is on an expiring deal. He’s earning a $7,666,667 salary this season, more than $5 million of which is still owed. My trade proposals are meant to be realistic, and I’m having difficulty envisioning the Marlins absorbing all of that money for a non-All-Star during a year in which making the postseason is unlikely.
However, if the Diamondbacks chipped in $1.5 million and threw in an additional player who’s under long-term club control, now we’re getting somewhere.
Andy Yerzy ranked in the middle of Baseball America’s D-backs Top 30 prospects list throughout the late 2010s. BA consistently praised his power potential and advanced approach while questioning whether he could actually stick at catcher. Then, Yerzy opened the 2019 minor league season at Low-A Kane County and did nothing at the plate (literally a -1 wRC+ in 33 games). Even at age 20, that month-and-a-half struggle was enough to tank his prospect stock.
Repeating that level here in 2021, Yerzy reached base safely in 11 of his first 12 games to earn a promotion. He has slugged a handful of homers since then, splitting time between catcher, designated hitter and first base.
Small sample size theater perhaps, but the 22-year-old Yerzy threw out seven runners on 13 stolen base attempts in May. If he continues flirting with a .500 slugging percentage while catching at least part time, he may need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft next offseason with a 40-man roster spot.
The dearth on long-term catching solutions in the Marlins organization has been well documented on this site. The Fish should be thrilled to take a flier on Yerzy.
THE DIAMONDBACKS GET...
The Marlins thought highly enough of Kyle Nicolas to invite him to major league spring training even though he hadn’t appeared in any official professional games yet. Through four starts with High-A Beloit—where most opposing batters are older than him—the Competitive Balance Round B draft pick has a 2.79 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 28 K in 19.1 IP.
Nicolas’ mid-90s fastball and late-breaking slider are filthy enough to compete in the majors in the near future. Question is, will he have the prerequisite control and changeup quality to be a starter? Most evaluators are suspect enough about that to peg his future value at around a 45 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
There is no chance that the Marlins would relinquish the mighty right-hander in a straight-up trade for a rental like Escobar. But receiving Yerzy plus the cash component combine to justify the gamble, in my opinion.
As for Sierra, he’s a prototypical fifth outfielder on a team that doesn’t need a fifth outfielder. Since 2019, the Dominican speedster has slashed .273/.333/.335 with 11 stolen bases and great defense. His range and arm strength are well-suited for Arizona’s Chase Field.
Sierra’s involvement in the trade would enable the Marlins to free up a spot on their active roster and 40-man for Escobar without the indignity of going through the DFA process with their once highly regarded prospect.
Baseball Trade Values considers this a fair deal, giving a slight edge to the Marlins. I believe Sierra’s specific skill set would be more valuable to the Diamondbacks than the average team and that BTV has been slow to adjust to Nicolas’ initial MiLB success.
There is a strong rapport between these teams’ front offices—they previously made substantial trades with each another in 2019 (Zac Gallen for Jazz Chisholm Jr.) and 2020 (Caleb Smith, Humberto Mejia and Julio Frias for Starling Marte).
In anticipation of so many teams having a fit for Escobar, I fully expect the D-backs to wait until the final days of July to pull the trigger on their favorite return package. To expedite the process, the Marlins would need to get aggressive with a proposal like this.
Marlins get Eduardo Escobar, Andy Yerzy and $1.5M cash. Diamondbacks get Kyle Nicolas and Magneuris Sierra. Fair deal?
This poll is closed
Yes, fair deal!
Marlins say no
Diamondbacks say no
Both teams say no