The Arizona Diamondbacks jumped the gun on free agency, announcing the signing of would-be-free-agent infielder Eduardo Escobar to a three-year, $21MM contract earlier this week.
The Arizona Diamondbacks caught he baseball world off-guard by re-signing Eduardo Escobar, not just because of the timing (the day before the start of the World Series), but because of the parties involved and the terms of the deal.
Had we the opportunity to guess the player most likely to re-up little more than a week before hitting the open market, speculation would have focused on players with longer tenures or teams with more glaring positional needs – maybe Adrian Beltre of the Rangers, Michael Brantley of the Indians or CC Sabathia of the Yankees.
Instead, the Diamondbacks lock up their mid-season acquisition, presumably to play a position where they have a viable – and higher upside – alternative in-house (Jake Lamb). Granted, one of Escobar’s more-valuable attributes is his positional flexibility – he plays everywhere in the infield, and could even play some left field, though he hasn’t seen significant time there since 2015.
Still, Escobar now joins a group of infielders under contract that includes Chris Owings, Paul Goldschmidt, Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed. Owings and Marte could both see time in the outfield, but it’s the infield corners that face a potential logjam, as neither Goldschmidt nor Lamb figure to see time anyplace outside of first or third.
All that said, there are a few reasons this deal makes a ton of sense for the Diamondbacks. The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan outlined the flexibility this deal affords Arizona both on the field if they run it back and contend in 2019, but also if they pull the plug on the Paul Goldschmidt era and transition to a rebuild.
While it may be surprising to see Arizona spend early on a position where they have a little depth rather than wait to fill holes at pitcher, catcher, and/or centerfield, this is hardly an albatross, even with an uncomfortably tight payroll situation. With an AAV of $7MM, Escobar’s deal is both affordable and tradeable, an important note for a team teetering on the edge of a potential rebuild.
In a competitive marketplace, teams are always looking for places to unearth value. With this deal for Escobar, Arizona secures a productive and versatile infielder for his age-30 through age-33 seasons at a very palatable rate.
That’s value. How best to exploit that value is a larger conversation about organizational strategy, but the very fact that there are multiple ways in which they could exploit Escobar’s value is a testament to the logic behind this deal.
The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro was among the first to tweet news of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ new deal with Eduardo Escobar on Monday (Twitter links), MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert confirmed the news via the Diamondbacks’ official site not long after, and FanSided’s own Andrew Marini put the deal in context here.