CINCINNATI -- In locking up Yunel Escobar through the 2015 season with a two-year contract extension, Alex Anthopoulos has once again demonstrated a creative side that mitigates risk and adds value for the ball club, while at the same time creating stability going forward.
The Jays have guaranteed their shortstop and leadoff man’s final two arbitration years in 2012 and ’13 at $5 million US apiece. In exchange for what might be an overpayment, they have secured options on Escobar’s first two free-agent years in 2014 and ’15, also at $5 million each, which could be a bargain.
Escobar is being paid $2.9 million this year and, if he continues to perform at a high level, could have expected significant raises over the next two arbitration years.
In essence, the Jays have taken away the risk for Escobar (injury, poor performance) over the next two years, in exchange for a potential discount at the back end of the deal if Escobar continues on a path to stardom.
“If we’re going to guarantee someone premium arbitration dollars, there needs to be an upside for the club,” said Anthopoulos. “You can look around the league and see players who look like they may be on their way to great careers, and all of a sudden things change. The club options give us some control in that regard.”
Escobar arrived in Toronto last summer with some baggage in that he had outlived his welcome in Atlanta because of the perception he was too much about style and not enough about substance. The move to the Blue Jays clubhouse was a fresh start and he’s made the most of it, making believers of his peers and the front office.
“I’ve said it many times before: You bet on the human being,” said Anthopoulos. “I would never enter into a contract negotiation with a player who I don’t believe in as a person.
“We love Yunel. This is a player who likes Toronto and wants to be in Toronto. It’s almost a year we’ve had Yunel and we’ve had a chance to get to know him as a player and as a person. There’s great comfort from our standpoint. With the work of Luis Rivera and Brian Butterfield, Yunel has become one of the most defensively sound shortstops in the game. When you factor in the high on-base percentage, an area where we were lacking, he’s been a good player for us and a good teammate as well.”
From Escobar’s standpoint, the feeling is mutual.
“They welcomed me with open arms and I’m happy to be here,” said Escobar through interpreter/coach Rivera. “This is the first time I’ve had a multi-year offer and I’m happy to see that coming from the organization, knowing they’re counting on me to be here for awhile.”
Anthopoulos dismisses the notion that this creates a roadblock for Adeiny Hechavarria who, like Escobar, is from Cuba.
“There’s no downside to having too many good players, especially with a middle-of-the-diamond player,” said Anthopoulos. “Those guys can play anywhere because of their skills.”