Yunel Escobar "now is all aboard" with the Washington Nationals' plan to move him to second base for the upcoming season. Wait... "now"?
Acquired by the defending NL East Champs from the Oakland A's straight up for veteran reliever Tyler Clippard in a mid-January deal just days after the Tampa Bay Rays traded him to the Athletics, Escobar, according to a report by CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman on Wednesday, was initially uncomfortable with the the Nats' plan to move him across the infield.
The 32-year-old, eight-year veteran spent time at second base during his rookie campaign with Atlanta in 2007, debuting two years after the Braves drafted him in the second round of the 2005 Draft, but the twenty-one games played at second that season are only major league games Escobar has played at the position in the majors.
Escobar did, however, make 16 errors at short with the Rays in 2014, seven throwing errors and nine fielding errors, in 136 games, posting a .965 fld%, the lowest of his career, a -26.0 UZR/150 that was 22nd out of 22 qualified major league shortstops and finishing at -24 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), which was also 22nd out of 22 qualified MLB shortstops.
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C. hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier after the trade that the Nationals believed Escobar was, "... more than capable of playing above-average defense at shortstop and at second base," in spite of his defensive struggles last season and Rizzo noted in an MLB Network Radio interview at the time that as recently as 2013, Escobar was a four-win player for the Rays.
After his initial concerns about the move to second, ".... and even some friction between player and new team," according to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, Escobar was said to be excited about the move after talking to Rizzo and Nationals' manager Matt Williams on Wednesday:
"'After what they expressed to me and what their vision is, I feel more comfortable," Escobar said through Alex Esteban, his agent who acted as interpreter. "I am going to play second base with an open mind.'"
Rizzo told Heyman they had "a very good, positive meeting" with Escobar, during which the Nationals explained their plans, "... told him, 'you're part of our family,' and made clear that, "'We don't put up with malcontents,' here."
Escobar is under contract for through 2016 at $5M and $7M over the next two seasons with a $7M club option for 2017 or a $1M buyout, and according to Heyman's report, the Nationals expressed their faith in him in the meeting and told Escobar Tuesday that he, "'...can be part of our team for years to come.'"
"No promises were made beyond their belief in him," Heyman writes, "but their words turned around his attitude."
Check out the entire article through the link below (#friction):