The Oakland A’s have acquired middle infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist and shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Tampa Bay Rays. Susan Slusser of the SF Chronicle has reported the news. Tampa Bay will receive DH/catcher John Jaso, elite shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson and outfielder Boog Powell.
This marks a different offseason direction for Oakland’s GM Billy Beane than fans have grown used to. Rather than trading away talent in a retooling manner, Beane has acquired it. Zobrist defines the word versatile as he could realistically play almost anywhere in the field. Right field should be occupied by Josh Reddick in Oakland, Escobar and Marcus Semien should take over shortstop, leaving second base available for Zobrist. He’ll represent a massive upgrade over Eric Sogard.
In a nine-year career entirely spent in Tampa Bay, Zobrist has batted .264 and rocked a .354 on-base percentage. He had a 27 home run, 91 RBI year in 2009. He also belted 20 bombs in both 2011 and 2012. More importantly, in a statistic that surely caught Beane’s possessed eyes, Zobrist has walked 72 or more times in each of the last six seasons. Beane’s also an advanced metrics forefather. Zobrist, an advanced metrics king, had a 5.7 WAR in 2014. His WAR has ranged from 5.4 to 6.3 over the last four years.
Zobrist is Oakland’s prime chip in the trade, but don’t sleep on Escobar’s value. In an eight-year career with the Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays and Rays, Escobar’s a .276 career hitter with a .347 on-base percentage. He’s never struck out more than 73 times in a season. He’s also considered above average defensively, meaning he could be an overall improvement on Jed Lowrie, Oakland’s starting shortstop from last year. Escobar will likely be the everyday starter as Semien shifts to a utility role.
Contractually, Zobrist is only under club control for 2015. Tampa Bay had already picked up his $7.5 million option for 2015, making him a major bargain. Oakland’s slew of traded talent has given them flexibility to resign a Zobrist level player. Escobar is under club control for three seasons. He’ll make $5 million in 2015, $7 million in 2016, then has a $7 million team option with a $1 million buyout for 2017.
Of the players landed by Tampa Bay, Robertson is the biggest prize. The 20-year-old shortstop was considered an important part of Oakland’s future. In Single-A ball last year, he hit .310 and showcased potential to quickly work through the minor league level. He now becomes a critical component of Tampa Bay’s plans.