Happy “Infielder Trading Day!” Baseball’s newest holiday is celebrated by your favorite team either sending or receiving an infielder for prospects. OK, it probably wasn’t your favorite team, but six of them were involved in three significant infielder trades, so there’s roughly a 20 percent chance this impacts you.
Eduardo Escobar heads from the Minnesota Twins the to Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s probably the best player traded since Manny Machado. The 29-year-old veteran leads MLB in doubles with 37 and has a 125 wRC+. He’s a switch-hitter who generally fares better from the left side. Defensively, he’s a much better third baseman than shortstop, but he also has experience at second base and the outfield corners. He’s a free agent this winter, so this is strictly a rental.
With Jake Lamb on the disabled list, Escobar slots in nicely at third base for Arizona. Even when Lamb was healthy, he was having a down year, so Escobar may remain the starter. Light-hitting shortstop Nick Ahmed could also cede time down the stretch.
The Twins get three prospects in return: outfielders Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel, as well as RHP Jhoan Duran. None of them have particularly high prospect rankings, and all played in A-ball this season, but there’s obvious upside. De La Trinidad was a 19th round pick in 2017 who is hitting .311/.403/.442 as a 22-year-old. Maciel is a 19-year-old switch-hitter with excellent speed and contact skills. FanGraphs credits him with potential 60-hit and 70-run tools. Duran, a 20-year-old hurler, pairs a 24.5 percent strikeout-rate with a 49.7 percent ground ball rate.
Asdrubal Cabrera heads south on the Jersey Turnpike from the New York Mets to the Philadelphia Phillies. The 12-year veteran infielder is on his way to a career best 122 wRC+ and has smashed 18 homers already. That wRC+ is third best among NL second basemen this season.
The defense is a different story. He’s far below average by both DRS (-18) and UZR (-6.0). This could become even more problematic because the Phillies will likely move him back to the left side of the infield. He’ll replace Scott Kingery, who has been woefully inadequate at shortstop. Cabrera spent most of his career at the six, but at 32-years-old he could be disastrous moving back there. There’s a reason why the Mets played him exclusively at second base, even though he’s been awful. No matter how well he hits, the defense might be so porous that he provides negative overall value. In other words, this is not a good roster fit. At least it’s only a two-month rental and not a long-term commitment.
Right-hander Franklyn Kilome heads to the Mets organization in the deal. FanGraphs ranked him the #129 overall prospect in baseball last month. He’s struggled this season as a 23-year-old in AA, only posting a 1.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Nevertheless, he possesses a potentially plus fastball and curve.
Shortly before midnight, the Kansas City Royals sent third baseman Mike Moustakas to the Milwaukee Brewers. (You can read a more thorough review of Moustakas here.) Moose departs the only organization he’s ever known as a 29-year-old impending free agent. He’s been a consistently above average hitter since 2015, putting up a wRC+ from 107-123 each season. He won’t walk much, but he’s crushed 58 long balls since the beginning of last year. He grades out adequately as a defensive third baseman.
However, it’s not Moustakas’ defense that is the problem. Incumbent third baseman Travis Shaw will have to move over to second base. Shaw has no major or minor league experience whatsoever at the keystone. He’s also a pretty big dude, listed at 6’4, 230 pounds, which makes him less than ideal as a middle infielder. This is a huge leap of faith by the Brewers that could result in a lot of easy ground balls up the middle squeaking through for base hits.
The Royals receive Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez in the deal, both of whom have MLB experience. Phillips, a 24-year-old outfielder was once a top prospect who fell behind Lorenzo Cain and Keon Broxton in the center field pecking order. He’s struggled this year in AAA Colorado Springs, only slashing .240/.331/.411 in one of organized baseball’s best hitting environments. Lopez was a big prospect in the low minors that couldn’t carry on his success at the upper levels. He’s now exclusively a reliever who’s walked 23 batters in 48 1⁄3 innings between AAA and the majors in 2018. Neither Phillips nor Lopez have much upside remaining, but there’s a good chance they’ll get to prove themselves right away on a depleted Kansas City roster.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983