Impact: Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez

In a somewhat surprising move, the Atlanta Braves have traded away starting shortstop Yunel Escobar and pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes to the Blue Jays for shortstop Alex Gonzalez and prospects Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky.
After three straight productive seasons, Escobar’s production has slipped big time in 2010. However, many of his peripheral stats haven’t changed much and a groin injury has been hampering him since April.

The move to Toronto puts Escobar in a better hitting environment, so we could see an improvement in the season’s second half. However, a slight improvement wouldn’t be enough to warrant mixed league action.

Alex Gonzalez had a great start to the season in which he hit .289 with seven home runs and 19 RBI in April. As expected, his production has declined sharply ever since. He’ll head to Atlanta, which is a tougher park for hitters than Toronto. Not that Gonzalez had too much value left outside of deeper leagues at this point anyway.
What is most interesting to me about this swap of shortstops is that Escobar is under team control through 2013 at which point he will be 30-years-old. Essentially, the Blue Jays get a proven shortstop in his prime years that should improve at the plate when healthy and is a decent enough defensive player. The Braves add about 3-4 home runs per month to their lineup and a decent defensive shortstop, but one that has a poor .296 OBP and a club option for 2.5 million in 2011, when he’ll be 34-years-old.

The Braves, however, do pick up a decent young arm in prospect Tim Collins. Collins is short in stature (listed at 5’7″-155), but he is a 20-year-old left-handed pitcher with low 90’s gas, a plus curve and a K/9 that has improved at each level (currently at 15.3 at double-A). He hasn’t started a game in the minors, but he has closed out 64 in his career including 26 saves. Most experts don’t see him as a future closer, but he could certainly be a valuable late-inning left-handed reliever in the big leagues.

Tyler Pastornicky is a 20-year-old shortstop with a career .264/.340/.355 line in the minors. He has six home runs and 24 stolen bases in 287 at-bats this season. Defense and speed are his top two skills (Stole 57 bags last season between low-A and high-A).
Jo-Jo Reyes in the pitcher heading to Toronto alongside Yunel Escobar. Reyes, 25, has logged 194 Major League innings with the Braves, mostly as a starter. His results were quite unimpressive: 6.40 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 5.9 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 (1.31 K/BB). He has had some decent ground ball rates, but doesn’t miss many bats and has a problem with home runs allowed. He may end up as a reliever before too long.
This trade should work out well for the Blue Jays over the next few seasons as they bought low on Yunel Escobar and sold high on Alex Gonzalez. The Braves are without a long term replacement for Escobar as their young talent at shortstop is a ways away and in need development. However, they may have scored nicely on lefty Tim Collins who, despite his small size, has done nothing but excel at every level. If the Braves can win now with Gonzalez at short, then I don’t have a real issue with this trade.
Chances are that Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus and Billy Wagner will be gone after this season and pitchers Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe aren’t getting any younger. The Braves have a solid young core to build around at the Major League level with some very good prospects not too far away from making a big league impact. Clearly, the front office wants to win now and send Chipper and manager Bobby Cox off in style.