Trade Candidate, Yunel Escobar.
Trade Candidate, Yunel Escobar.

As the title suggests, because the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Asdrubal Cabrera earlier in the week, it’s easy to assume that someone in the middle infield will be shipped elsewhere prior to Opening Day. The question is, who — Yunel Escobar or Ben Zobrist?

While Zobrist could net more going into this, his contract year, one would imagine that any of the teams connected with Zo (Cubs, Giants, Nationals, etcetera) might be hard pressed to pony up a combined $25M (Zobrist’s accrued value) worth of players — prospects or otherwise. Then one wonders if any team would be willing to part with a league ready, +WAR player to compensate for the loss of Zobrist in the lineup?

In my opinion, and as I’ve mentioned before, it makes more sense to trade Escobar:

  • Trading Zobrist now is, essentially, conceding the 2015 season before it even starts.
  • Steamer projects that both Escobar and Cabrera will produce similarly, culling a 1.5 +WAR. He also projects to a 100 wRC+ in 2015 — a shade ahead of Escobar — with a higher ISO (.146 vs .090) and possibly twice the home run tally. With a career .307 BABIP (.283 in 2013, and .272 in 2014), Cabrera pans out to be a middle infielder who, when compared to Escobar (.300 career, .281 in 2013, .282 in 2014), is more productive.
  • Relying upon Cabrera, while trading Escobar, gives the Rays flexibility to shed $19MM from the payroll over the next three seasons, while creating another spot in the middle infield for the tandem of Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe — and creating room for Ryan Brett, Hak-Ju Lee, or Tim Beckham in 2016.
  • The Rays also lose the risk of decline associated with Yunel’s age.
  • Finally, a great point was written on another blog: the Rays will pay $3MM (the difference between Cabrera and Escobar’s contracts) for the ability to acquire $7 million value (in the form of either a fringe-top-100 pitching prospect or several lower-ranked prospects).
  • While the want for Escobar is less than that of Zobrist, Yunel is desired by a few teams, including the Cincinnati Reds. Grant Doepel of Blog Red Machine touched on that very subject,

Considering the Reds’ stable of young arms in their farm system, Tampa Bay could target a young pitcher in trade talks and continue doing what they prefer – obtaining and cultivating young talent. With top shortstop prospect Willy Adames making his way through Tampa’s lower minor leagues, it has become evident that Escobar is not in the long-term plans for the Rays. However, at 32-years old, he still has plenty of productive years to give.

Combining Escobar with the previously acquired Byrd would provide the Reds with the deepest, most complete lineup they have had in years. In doing so, the Reds could give their pitching staff something they haven’t been accustomed to in quite some time – adequate run support.

With all of that said, what do you think? Who is more likely to get traded and why? Take the poll below, and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

[poll id=”4″]

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