One of the areas the Detroit Tigers need to address this offseason is the shortstop position. It is apparent that, for whatever reason, they don’t see any kind of future with Jose Iglesias, be it long-term or temporary. Recent reports have the Tigers staring at a long list of less-than-enticing talent, and not really being in any kind of rush to begin to narrow things down.
One of the players the organization is considering is Alcides Escobar. That faint cackling sound you hear from the west is every Kansas City Royals fan laughing at the Tigers for willingly entering into an agreement with a shortstop the average Royals fan knows has no business on a major league roster. I would feel bad about being the brunt of jokes from the Royals fanbase, but then I remember that they are fans of a team whose general manager felt it was time well spent to have his minor league players attend a mandatory anti-pornography seminar during spring training. I don’t care if they won a World Series in the last five years. They are still terrible.
Escobar is, by all fair systems of measurement be they metric or otherwise, terrible.
His -0.3 fWAR was good for sixth-worst in the league last year, and the only thing that kept it that respectable — if that’s even an appropriate word to use here — was his defense. Escobar went out of his way to put the word offensive in Offensive Runs Above Average in 2018, finishing with the second worst rating in the league, -23.1, behind the esteemed Chris Davis.
Escobar has always been a glove-first guy, and that is what has largely kept him viable. Unfortunately, he is going to be 32 at the start of the 2019 season. While that isn’t exactly ancient by major league standards, he’s certainly not going to find himself on the upward trend of any measurable skill, unless that skill is knowing what a phone book is or how a VCR or fax machine work. His defense has seen a steady decline over the last several seasons — he was worth -12 Defensive Runs Saved last year — and that should continue unabated.
Yeah, it’s not great
I could go on and point at his .082 isolated power (ISO) or his career on-base percentage that hovers just above .290, but that would be continuing to flog a long dead horse. My point here is that the case for signing Escobar isn’t slim, it’s basically non-existent.
You, like the rest of the rational portion of the Tigers fanbase, are probably saying to yourself, “There is no way this team would bring Alcides Escobar on board to play shortstop.” Oh ye of short-term memory. This team has a not too distant history of bringing in a fair mixture of washed up shortstops and guys who fit the dreaded “glove-first” description of being good in the field and seemingly possessing not much more than a passing familiarity with a baseball bat and its workings.
Remember Adam Everett? I mean, you probably didn’t until I just mentioned him, but now those memories from just shy of a decade ago are barreling back into your consciousness like a freight train of sadness. “But that was almost 10 years ago”, you say. Fair point. Allow me to direct your attention to 2014. Does the name Alex Gonzalez ring a bell? A loud regretfully laughable bell? Facing a season without Jose Iglesias after taking a little over a year to finally figure out he had stress fractures in his shins, they traded Steve Lombardozzi — who had been a Tiger for long enough to take a breath — for a 37-year-old Gonzalez because they had more faith in him as an option than Andrew Romine, Hernan Perez or Eugenio Suarez. So much about that last sentence makes me sad. Gonzalez was a spectacular nine-game failure, and the bulk of the remaining games went to Romine who proved to be yet another adequate glove with a bad bat at the position.
For a team in the stage of a rebuild that should have them looking for free agents that might be flippable at the trade deadline, Escobar would be a perplexing signing, to say the least. With the historic calling card that is his glove slowly disappearing like the skin on that little kid in Coco, it is hard to point to anything that would make Escobar attractive to other teams. There are no valid reasons to offer him a contract, but given the Tigers’ history in this department, I wouldn’t be surprised if they seemed to find one.