NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Angels acquired veteran infielder Yunel Escobar from the Nationals on Thursday, in a move that could help the club at second or third base. In exchange, hard-throwing reliever Trevor Gott and Minor League pitcher Michael Brady were sent to Washington.
Escobar comes in as the Angels' new third baseman, the position the longtime shortstop transitioned to full time last season, but he can move to second base if David Freese is brought back. With a career .350 on-base percentage, Escobar is also a fit to bat in the top of the lineup, perhaps alongside Kole Calhoun, to give Mike Trout more opportunities to drive runners in.
Escobar, 33, is owed $7 million in 2016 and has a club option for another $7 million in '17. A right-handed hitter, Escobar is coming off a solid offensive season in which he batted .314/.375/.415 with nine homers and 56 RBIs in 139 games. The Nats are sending the Angels an additional $1.5 million in the deal.
Gott throws a lively, upper-90s fastball and posted a 3.02 ERA in 48 games in his rookie season, while serving mainly as a seventh-inning reliever. The 23-year-old right-hander was acquired in the Huston Street trade in July 2014 and has a 2.69 ERA with 3.8 walks and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his Minor League career.
Brady, 28, posted a 3.77 ERA in 32 games (19 starts) across 119 1/3 innings for Double-A Arkansas in 2015 and has not reached the Major Leagues.
Escobar is deemed a below-average defensive third baseman, but he's an immediate upgrade over prospects Kaleb Cowart and Kyle Kubitza, who were going to battle for an everyday role if the Angels didn't find another option. Johnny Giavotella, who had a solid season offensively but is limited with his glove, is slated to be the starting second baseman, but the Angels could keep looking.
A native of Cuba, Escobar was drafted by Atlanta in the second round of the 2005 Draft and has batted .281/.350/.385 in his nine-year Major League career with the Braves, Blue Jays, Rays and Nats, compiling 78 homers, 449 RBIs and 33 steals.
Escobar caught heat for writing an anti-gay slur on his eye black while with the Blue Jays in 2012, drawing a three-game suspension, but later donated the salary he would have earned in that time to the You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation organizations. Escobar was a renowned talent upon leaving Cuba, but initially rubbed some coaches and teammates the wrong way.
The Angels now sit between $10 million and $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold and still have a hole in left field.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Escobar was a surprisingly productive mixed-league fantasy asset in 2015, hitting .314 with 75 runs scored. Although a regression in batted-ball luck (.347 BABIP in '15) may push his average closer to his lifetime .281 mark, the infielder could still log enough playing time in '16 to top the 55-mark in both runs and RBIs. For that reason, Escobar should be a solid option in American League-only formats.