This article originally appeared on NatsGM.com.
Just prior to the conclusion of the 2015 MLB Winter Meetings, on Thursday afternoon, the Washington Nationals agreed to trade infielder Yunel Escobar plus some cash considerations to Anaheim in exchange for RHP Trevor Gott and minor league RHP Michael Brady. Washington acquired Escobar last offseason from Oakland in exchange for popular RHP Tyler Clippard, and now parts with him in order to fill more pressing needs in the bullpen.
The 33-year-old Escobar provided a veteran influence to the Nationals’ infield last season, hitting .314/.375/.415 with 9 home runs while splitting time at both second and third base. Over his 9-year major league career Escobar is a career .281/.350/.385 hitter and has played everywhere in the infield besides first base. Escobar has lost some range defensively in the past three seasons and fits best at this point in his career at third base. This trade allows the Nationals to move Anthony Rendon permanently back to his natural position at third base, while creating room for Danny Espinosa and Trea Turner in the middle infield. Escobar will make $7 million next season, with a $7 million team option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout.
In return for Escobar’s services, the Nationals are receiving a 23-year-old right-handed reliever in Trevor Gott, plus a 28-year-old Triple-A RHP Michael Brady. Gott made his major league debut in 2015 for Anaheim and provided the Angels with a 3.02 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 1.238 WHIP and 27 strikeouts against 16 walks in 47.2 innings pitched. Gott possesses a 3-pitch repertoire featuring a 96-98mph fastball with excellent movement, a curveball and the occasional changeup. His pedestrian 5.1 K/9 ratio was surprising for someone with an average fastball velocity of 96.2mph, although he did generate a career 9.5 K/9 in the minor leagues. Impressively he did post a 57.2% ground-ball rate which should fit well with Washington’s expected improved infield defense in 2016. Gott finished with only 114 days of major league service time last season, meaning the Nationals will control him through arbitration for six more years through 2021.
Michael Brady, though he is old for a prospect at nearly 29, had an impressive season last year at Double-A, making 19 starts and throwing 119.1 innings with a 3.77 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 0.9 BB/9. During his 6-year minor league career, Brady has a 20-21 record with a 3.06 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and a minuscule 1.5 BB/9. His age makes me extremely skeptical that he is anything more than minor league depth, but general manager Mike Rizzo’s track record with “throw-ins” in trades is strong and gives me hesitation to dismiss him as organizational fodder.
This trade is a classic baseball swap, as two teams parted with quality players that were less valuable to themselves than to the other organization. Washington has some present infield depth and needed to move Escobar this winter, while Anaheim had a desperate need for help at either second or third base. Conversely, Anaheim has acquired some bullpen depth in the past few seasons and capitalized on this to fill a greater hole in the organization. Escobar should hit near the top of Anaheim’s lineup and the acquisition of defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons will help shield Escobar’s diminishing range at third base. Alternatively, Gott should pair extremely well with new acquisition RHP Shawn Kelley to provide Washington with two quality pitchers as set-up men bridging the gap to the Nationals’ closer.
Overall, Washington attempted to “sell high” on Escobar’s strong season in 2015 and found a willing buyer in the Angels. Escobar fills a major need for Anaheim and the loss of Gott should not hinder their bullpen long-term. On the other hand, Washington has done well to receive a promising future high-leverage reliever in Gott and the organization must be eager to see his progress under the tutelage of new pitching coach Mike Maddux. Unfortunately, Brady as the second piece feels slightly underwhelming, as the Nationals’ front office should have targeted someone with a bit more future potential.
This is a risky trade for the Nationals, as in general it is better to be trading for the everyday player while parting with the reliever, not the other way around. That said, both teams did well in this deal and this is a solid swap for Washington.Next post: Mop-Up Duty: The Off-Topic Podcast – Simpsons Draft
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