Mets To Sign Eduardo Escobar

4:47 pm: The deal also contains a 2024 club option, reports Sherman.

4:28 pm: It’s a $20MM guarantee, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter).

4:24 pm: The Mets and free agent infielder Eduardo Escobar are in agreement on a two-year deal, pending a physical, reports Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (Twitter link). It’s the first major strike of the offseason for the Mets, who recently tabbed Billy Eppler to lead their baseball operations department.

Escobar gives the Mets cover at three infield positions, as he’s coming off a season in which he logged 100+ innings at each of first base, second base and third base. He also had extended run as a shortstop earlier in his career, but he’s only played two innings there over the past three years. Escobar doesn’t rate as a particularly strong defender anywhere on the diamond, but he’s at least capable of bouncing between a few spots on the dirt.

While that defensive versatility is a nice bonus, the calling card with Escobar has been his bat. He’s been an above-average hitter by measure of wRC+ in each of the last three full seasons, unexpectedly morphing into a power threat late in his career. While he hit just 27 home runs over his first 1620 major league plate appearances, Escobar found another gear in that department in 2017. He hit 21 homers in 499 trips to the dish that season, and he’s knocked between 23 and 35 longballs with an above-average ISO (slugging minus batting average) in all three full campaigns since then.

Escobar has gotten to that increased impact without sacrificing much in the way of contact. He’s kept his strikeout rate right around 20% over the course of his career, around three percentage points below the league mark. His contact and swinging strike rates have also hovered right around average. And the switch-hitting Escobar has fared well from both sides of the plate. Going back to the start of 2018, he’s a .283/.333/.482 batter against left-handed pitching; his .249/.311/.473 mark against righties over that same stretch isn’t as impressive, but it’s still around league average output from his weaker side.

There’s a lot to like about Escobar’s offensive game, although he’s not completely without flaws. The Venezuela native had an awful .212/.270/.335 showing over 222 plate appearances in the 2020 truncated season. He bounced back to offer more typical .253/.314/.472 output between the D-Backs and Brewers in 2021. That clearly erased some doubts about Escobar’s 2020 struggles, but he’ll turn 33 years old in January. And even at his best, Escobar has an aggressive approach that tamps down his walk rate and leads to on-base percentages right around the league average.

Escobar is coming off his first career All-Star selection, but that nod was also influenced by the rule requiring an All-Star rep from every team and his presence on a lackluster Arizona club. He’s more solid regular than star, but Escobar was valued around three wins above replacement by each of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs in 2018, 2019 and 2021. The Mets will hope for more of that same steadiness over the coming seasons, and Escobar’s versatility enables Eppler and his staff to be flexible in building the infield around him.

More to come.

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