There is no doubt in my mind that Alex Anthopolous literally shocked most of other MLB GMs when he was able to nab Yunel Escobar before trading closed in 2010. Not only did acquiring Yunel cost him nothing more than an aging SS he acquired as a FA before the 2010 who was having a career year at the plate, but it resolved what had been huge issues for the Jays in recent years.
First, it added some offense to the SS position. Any offense whatsoever was already better than what they had received from previous gap fillers like John McDonald and David Eckstein. Second, it also added an OBP threat at the top of the lineup, in the 2-hole, which had been lacking in recent years. In order for the big bats the Jays have to be effective, they need to have runners on. If not, the bog knocks end up being solo shots that make gathering any sort of sizable lead harder to accomplish. Finally, Yunel also has the capacity and arm to play 3B, an issue that comes into play when we consider the recent acquisition of Adeiny Hechavarria for a sizable chunk of cash.
Adeiny Hechavarria may not begin the season any higher than AA in 2011, but he could easily wind up on the active roster by the All-Star break if he shows his full potential. Make no mistake, he has the skills and potential to become a major impact SS for the Jays. I say SS because I can’t foresee the Jays moving him, a youngster, to 3B when Yunel Escobar is able to do so more easily and without having to worry about both playing a new position AND learning to hit MLB pitching. Adeiny would have to do just that if he were moved to 3B, a daunting task for someone still getting used to a new culture and environment.
However, the curious part of this scenario is that Alex Anthopolous acquired Yunel Escobar after he acquired Adeiny Hechavarria, making me wonder if he did so because he thought Yunel, being Cuban as well, could help ease the transition to MLB for Adeiny whenever he is ready. Both could communicate quite well on the left side of the infield and thus break down one of the barriers that could have made the Jays hesitate to promote Adeiny aggressively.
If and when Adeiny is promoted, he will likely inherit a role at the bottom of the lineup until he adjusts to MLB pitching. Should the Jays already be planning for his arrival, it makes the likelihood of a big 3B signing less likely, particularly when you consider that they already have Jose Bautista on board who can more than handle the position when required. John McDonald also showed he can handle the hot corner off the bench as he resumes his bench defensive specialist role with the Jays.
The Jays will get plenty of production from Yunel Escobar in the 1st half of the season as well as excellent D. What they get from Adeiny in 2011 remains to be seen, but I fully expect him to be the starting SS when the 2012 season starts. It’s the reason they felt comfortable trading Tyler Pastronicky away, and also the reason they brought Yunel Escobar on board. The goood thing to take out of all of this is obviously the fact that for the first time in a very long time, the Jays will be kicking a season with a SS that provides an offensive burst to the lineup without compromising their defensive aspect of the game.