Capitalizing on Yunel Escobar’s best offensive season, the Washington Nationals traded the veteran infielder to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for young, hard-throwing right-handed reliever Trevor Gott. The Nationals dealt from a position of highest value and depth — Escobar was going to be one of four infielders for two middle infield spots — to the Angels, who have a surplus of young relievers.
The Angels also sent minorleague pitcher Michael Brady to the Nationals in the deal.
Escobar, 33, hit .314 with nine home runs and a .375 on-base percentage during the 2015 season, and was the Nationals’ most consistent hitter behind Bryce Harper. He was originally asked to move from his long-time position of shortstop to second base in spring training, a difficult transition for Escobar that was cut short because of several injuries to Anthony Rendon.
Escobar, instead, played third base the rest of the season and his steady bat proved key. In his first season playing third base, Escobar held his own because of steady hands and a solid arm. But advanced metrics and some scouts rated his defense among the worst qualified third basemen in baseball. Escobar had a checkered past with other teams but there were few complaints about him in the Nationals clubhouse.
But going into the 2016 season, the Nationals faced a dilemma: what position will Escobar play? Rendon is moving back to his natural position of third base, meaning Escobar would have had to go through the process of learning second base again or moving back to shortstop. Danny Espinosa is a superior defender at both positions, and hits for more power. Rookie Trea Turner may need more minor league seasoning but is viewed as a potential future shortstop, if not second baseman.
The Nationals used Escobar’s strong season and affordable contract — he is owed $14 million over the next two seasons — to acquire a reliever for a bullpen that needed help.
Gott, 23, reached the majors for the first time in 2015 and was 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 48 games. The former Tates Creek and University of Kentucky standout struck out 27 and walked 16 in 47 2/3 innings. His fastball averaged 96.2 mph last season. The trade was first reported by CBS Sports.
Gott tweeted: “I want to thank the @angels for everything the have done for my career. Couldn’t ask for a better staff or better teammates! … However, I’m excited to say that I am now a part of the @Nationals and can’t wait to be a part of such a great organization!”
Brady, 28, made 19 starts and 32 appearances with Double-A Arkansas this year. He went 7-7 with a 3.77 ERA.