Could the Cincinnati Reds have acquired Ben Zobrist/Yunel Escobar?


Two names that came up during the off-season as potential trade candidates for the Cincinnati Reds were Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. Both played for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, and they both would be filling a need the Redlegs had (prior to acquiring Marlon Byrd, obviously). Could this deal have actually happened?

A lot of the time, we as fans sit back and craft trades in our head while daydreaming. “Oh, my favorite team should acquire this player for that player,” or, “I wish we could get this guy, he’s awesome, and my team needs to be awesome.” Most of the time, the deals have no foundation and make little to no sense. (I’m looking directly at you, Giancarlo Stanton/Troy Tulowitzki trade conspiracy theorists.)

In this instance, acquiring Zobrist/Escobar actually made a ton of sense, and could have happened. (Let’s also work together on understanding this would have worked before the Reds acquired Byrd; after the fact, no so much.)

The deal, in case you haven’t heard, saw Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar head west to the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for catcher John Jaso, and minor leaguers Daniel Robertson, and Boog Powell. To a common fan, that’s not exactly a lot back in return for two major league cogs that almost certainly puts Oakland back in the conversation in the American League West. But, what the trade byline doesn’t show is the hype that surrounds both Robertson and Powell.

Robertson was the A’s’ first-round selection back in 2012. He hammered 15 home runs at single-A last year. Considered the prized prospect coming back in the deal, he’s still only 20 years old. Powell, on the other hand, is just 21, but has displayed an incredible hitting stroke. At split levels of single-A last year, Powell batted .344/.451/.435. To think that the A’s didn’t dole out a whole lot to acquire Zobrist/Escobar wouldn’t only be irresponsible, it would be wrong. (Daniel Robertson was the number one prospect in the entire A’s system, when ranked by Baseball America. Powell did not make the top-10.)

For fun, let’s attempt to quantify what the Reds would have had to give up in order to acquire the two former Rays:

C – John Jaso – The A’s were looking to fill the back-up catcher role to 2014 All-Star Derek Norris. Known for his solid on-base percentage and steady handling of pitchers, Jaso fills that need. From the Reds perspective, it could be said Brayan Pena is the closest thing they would have to a back-up catcher like that, so he’ll be our first piece in the deal.

SS – Daniel Robertson – We all know that the Reds are thinner at the shortstop position than imaginable down on the farm, so obviously attempting to quantify with another middle infielder would be inadequate. Regardless, teams aren’t exactly hunting out specific positions when making these deals, but rather viewing if a player is a pitcher or a batter. With Robertson being Oakland’s top hitting prospect, it seems only right to include Cincinnati’s top hitting prospect, Jesse Winker. The two are actually incredibly similar in terms of their development, with Winker maybe even be a bit further along having had a cup of coffee at Double-A Pensacola last season. It would be a tough bullet to swallow, but Winker would almost certainly have to be included in the deal.

OF – Boog Powell – Being a 20th round draft pick may be a partial reason for the stunted promotion of the left-handed hitter who obliterated everything he saw in 2014. Surprisingly, the Reds have a prospect that is quite similar. You may have heard the name Kyle Waldrop after he tore apart the Arizona Fall League just a few short months ago, but he’s just a 12th round selection of the Reds, and not even ranked among the top-10 prospects by Baseball America. While Waldrop is a year older and has some Double-A experience, he may even be viewed as a better prospect than Powell.

In summation, here is what the hypothetical deal would appear as:

Cincinnati Reds receive:

LF/UTIL – Ben Zobrist

SS – Yunel Escobar

Tampa Bay Rays receive:

C – Brayan Pena

OF – Jesse Winker

OF – Kyle Waldrop

Of course, had the (hypothetical) deal gone through, there would have almost assuredly been a chain reaction. Such as, the Reds potentially dealing Zack Cozart (possibly to a team like the New York Mets for a starting pitcher such as Jon Niese or Dillon Gee to sure up the rotation), but that would be getting ahead of ourselves.

For what it’s worth, would you have liked the Reds to pull the trigger on this deal? Zobrist is owed $7.5 million this season before hitting the free agent market where he will almost assuredly be getting an increase in pay. (Meaning he would not likely be coming back to Cincinnati.) Escobar on the other hand, is on the hook for $5 million this year, $7 million in 2016, and has a $7 million team option in 2017 with a $1 million buyout.

The money this year ($11.1 million when you add Zobrist + Escobar, but subtract Pena) is significantly more than the $4 million spent on Byrd, but would it have been worth it?

Vote below and let’s see what Reds Country thinks of the deal that could have been: