Oakland Athletics: What Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar Bring to the A’s


The Oakland Athletics made a deal yesterday with the Tampa Bay Rays that sent catcher John Jaso, and two prospects, shortstop Daniel Robertson, and outfielder Boog Powell, to the Rays for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. With this trade, the A’s now have flexibility at shortstop and second base after acquiring Zobrist and Escobar, as well as Marcus Semien from the Chicago White Sox earlier this offseason.

Zobrist, last season with Tampa Bay, hit .272 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI’s, and he had a .354 on base percentage. Zobrist can play all positions on both the infield and outfield. Primarily, Zobrist plays in the infield as shortstop or second base with 547 games played at second and 229 games played at shortstop.

Sep 23, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) hits an RBI double during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Escobar hit .258 with seven home runs and 39 RBI’s, and he had a .324 on base percentage last season in 137 games with the Rays. Escobar is an established shortstop, as he has played 1,016 career games at the shortstop position. In those 1,016 games, Escobar has accumulated a .977 fielding percentage. Escobar can also play second base, but he has only played in 21 games at second and has .963 fielding percentage.

Most likely, the A’s will play Zobrist at second with either Semien or Escobar at short and split playing time with Eric Sogard at second. Another option the A’s could do with Zobrist’s flexibility to play anywhere is have Zobrist play in left field, with Escobar at shortstop and Semien at second base. Oakland could also have Zobrist play left, have Escobar and Semien split starts at short and have Sogard be the everyday second baseman.

With Zobrist, there are endless combinations for lineups because he can play everywhere. Also, should Semien not work out as well as Oakland is anticipating, Zobrist and Escobar can take over the middle infield with Sogard as a backup option. There is also the option to have Escobar act as a designated hitter, have Semien or Sogard at shortstop and Zobrist at second. The only problem with using Escobar as a DH is that it would take Billy Butler out of the lineup, unless Butler is at first base.

Sep 5, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar (11) slides safe into home plate as Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph (36) attempted to tag him out during the eighth inning at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Zobrist and Escobar both bring decent defensive and offensive skills that the A’s lost after trading away Josh Donaldson and Moss. Donaldson hit .255 last season, which is three points off of Escobar’s average. Although Escobar has far less home runs than Donaldson, he still gets hits about as much as Donaldson. Zobrist’s .272 is 38 points better than Moss and is similar to Derek Norris‘ .270 average.

Another aspect that Zobrist and Escobar bring to Oakland is experience, both Zobrist and Escobar have played eight years in the majors.

Having middle infielders that can produce efficiently both with their glove and their bat has been something that Oakland had been seeking for a long time. Both Zobrist and Escobar bring that to an A’s team that could use an offensive boost after all the trades that have been made this offseason.

Next: Why the A's Needed Zobrist More than the Giants Did