Underrated Players: Yunel Escobar

33 year old veteran infielder Yunel Escobar has been overlooked over his nine year career, but he is quietly one of the best utility infielders in the game Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
33 year old veteran infielder Yunel Escobar has been overlooked over his nine year career, but he is quietly one of the best utility infielders in the game
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Yunel Escobar is one of the more little known players in baseball, but he would be a valuable asset to any team. Not only has he been undervalued by fans, he has been undervalued by the teams that he has played for. Escobar has been traded six times, and in the majority of those trades his value has been really passed over. 

First trade - On July 14th of 2010, Escobar, along with Jo-Jo Reyes, was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Alex Gonzalez. While Gonzalez had had a fairly good season for Toronto so far (.259, 17 HR, 50 RBI), he was a 33 year old shortstop who had been a weak hitter most of his career. Gonzalez would hit .240 with 6 homeruns and 38 RBI for the Braves that year, and .241 with 15 HR and 56 in 2011 before becoming a free agent. Escobar hit .275 with four homeruns and 16 RBI for Toronto through the end of 2010, .290 with 11 HR and 48 RBI in 2011, and .253 with 9 and 51 in 2012. As for Jo-Jo Reyes, he made 20 starts for Toronto and went 5-8 with a 5.40 E.R.A.

Second trade - On November 19th, 2012, Escobar was traded along with Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Anthony DeSclafani, and Justin Nicolino to the Miami Marlins. In return, the Blue Jays got Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio. This trade did not work out for Toronto very well, but in this case Yunel Escobar wasn't the reason. 

Third trade - After Yunel Escobar seemed not so thrilled about his move to Miami, he was traded to Tampa Bay two weeks later. In exchange for Escobar, Tampa flipped the Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich. In 2013, Escobar hit .256 with 9 HR and 56 RBI, and was held to only 137 games due to injury in 2014, but still hit .258 with 7 HR and 39 RBI. Dietrich has been up and down between the minor leagues and major leagues over the past three years, and has not been what the Marlins had hoped. In 196 MLB games, he has hit just .234 with 24 HR and 64 RBI, and will be lucky to serve as a bench player in 2016. This move is certainly justifiable, considering the Marlins loved Hechavarria at short and Escobar wasn't too excited about having to move to third, but you would think maybe they could have gotten a better return.

Fourth trade - On January 10th, 2015, Escobar was traded, along with Ben Zobrist, to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for John Jaso, Daniel Robertson, and Boog Powell. This trade made a lot on sense at the time, and still could wind up working out nicely for Tampa, although we haven't seen much effect of it on their side yet. 

Fifth trade - Oakland wasted no time trading Escobar, as they flipped him to the Washington Nationals for Tyler Clippard four days later. Escobar had his best career year in Washington, and Clippard appeared in only 37 games (2.79 ERA) before being traded to the New York Mets. This trade made sense for both sides, as it gave Oakland a much needed bullpen arm, and Washington a replacement for injured Anthony Rendon, but it obviosuly panned out better for Washington. 

Sixth trade - On December 10th of 2015, Escobar was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Trevor Gott and Michael Brady. Brady is 28 and has never cracked the major leagues, and Gott has only 42 games under his belt. Gott was very impressive last season out of the bullpen, posting a record of 4-2 with a 3.08 ERA, but I don't know that a team who is losing their starting shortstop (Free agent Ian Desmond) was really in the position to make this trade. 

Where does Escobar stand now? In 2015 he was 8th in the MLB in batting average, and also scored 75 times while hitting 25 doubles, 9 homeruns, and driving in 56. What is not to like about Escobar? A player who can hit pretty decently, play 3B/SS/2B and even a little bit of outfield, and can start or come off the bench, is not a player who should have bounced around so much. Players like Escobar are hard to come by, and any manager would love to have a guy with his versatility on their roster. Expect him to do very well out in Los Angeles, especially playing along side defensive master, shortstop Andrelton Simmons. The Angels may have one of the best, but most overlooked duos on the left side, between Escobar and Simmons.