It seems the popular opinion of late is that the Jays are shopping Escobar. The combination of Escobar’s poor season, the fiasco at the end of the year and Farrell’s comment that he has had private discussions with Escobar before that incident have essentially confirmed the assumption that Escobar is a clubhouse disturbance.
Although it is true that Escobar has seriously damaged his reputation and it is possible the club will look to rid themselves of him in order to save face, I would actually like to argue the opposite: through this recent scandal, Escobar has actually backed the Blue Jays into a corner, in which they will be pressured to keep him around for the next three years. The Blue Jays have somewhat of a surplus at shortstop heading in to 2013. I think there are four options for how they can proceed:
1) Keep Hechavarria in the minors for 2013, let Escobar play out the 2013 season, and then let him walk and give his job to Hechavarria.
2) They could trade Escobar this offseason, and give the starting SS job to Hechavarria for 2013.
3) They could trade Hechavarria, and exercise Escobar’s options, keeping him around for the long term (until 2015), unless a better offer for a different SS comes along.
4) They could keep them both, let Hech play in the minors for 2013, and at the end of the year, evaluate how each of them did, and then go from there. At that point, there will be a lot more pressure on the Jays to trade one of them unless they just slide one over to 2B.
Some bloggers and writers out there believe that the Jays should choose option #1. I believe this approach would be detrimental to the team’s long-term success, whether or not the rumors about what Escobar does to the clubhouse are true. It is generally estimated that a team gets fair value at about $5M per 1 WAR. As Escobar is owed $5M per season for the next three years, the Jays get fair value if he produces 1 WAR per season. However, even in his disaster of 2012, Escobar will still be worth double that at 2 fWAR. He has also been worth quadruple that at approximately 4 WAR in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Even in his rookie year in 2007 he was worth 2.6 fWAR in just over half a season. So in 4 seasons out of his 6-year career, Escobar has given his team approximately $20M in value, and even in his two down years he has provided about $10M in value. That kind of worth at a premium position on such a team-friendly contract is not something you let walk away for nothing when you’re trying to contend, notwithstanding the speculation about his negative intangibles.
That brings us to option 2. A surplus at SS, a position in high demand, can go a long way towards filling some of the holes on the roster. Were Escobar not involved in this scandal, even with his down year, he would have had a lot of value on the trade market. However, even if you don't think he will ever go back to being a perennial 4 WAR player, it's still probably true that he is now at a low-point in his trade value. If he sticks around for 2013 and just has a season somewhere in between his 2011 and 2012, it would do wonders for his trade value. So while he still has significant value right now, AA is not known to sell low on his players.
That leaves us at options 3 and 4, trading Hechavarria and keeping Escobar, or keeping them both. Hechavarria is still very unproven with the bat, and may never develop into anything better than what Escobar is in his down seasons. If he were to start in the majors right now, he would probably contribute something similar to what Jonny Mac would contribute for 2013. Of course Hech is younger, more athletic and has the upside, and that's why he has value. But Hech did show some promise with the bat in September, and if some other teams noticed, then he might be at the height of his trade value right now. Especially in an offseason where shortstops are in very high demand, and the Jays have holes that they want to fill now on the MLB roster, Hech can be a very nice chip. If you could bring in a quality starting pitcher for someone who is just as likely to become a no-bat defensive specialist as he is an above-average regular, I think I would bite. With Escobar essentially removing himself from the trade market, I think AA's course here should be pretty clear.