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Trade Analysis: Eduardo Escobar gives Milwaukee Brewers a potent and crowded offense

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Eduardo Escobar adds a big bat to the lineup, but his exact position on the team is unclear.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline approaching (less than 24 hours away now), the Brewers made their first big move by adding Eduardo Escobar to the team. The Brewers sent back two prospects (OF Cooper Hummel and INF Alberto Ciprian) in the trade, setting them up with a power bat to finish up this season. There’s no doubt that Escobar is the offensive threat that the Brewers need to solidify this lineup. However, finding playing time for everyone with him in the lineup will be the tricky part.

The one immediate concern with Escobar is that there’s not a clear spot for him right now. The 26-man roster spot is an easy decision, as he’ll likely take Pablo Reyes’ roster spot when he reports to the team on Friday. Escobar will definitely get playing time, the question is more about who loses time to give him starts. That’s not an easy question to answer. Though he is an infielder, the spots he plays in are already well claimed. Kolten Wong is playing well at second base, and so is Willy Adames at shortstop. Luis Urias has cooled off a bit in the past month (.205/.326/.370 last 28 days), but is still valuable in the lineup. Escobar will get starts at first base, but mainly against left-handed pitchers. The outfield is also crowded, so starts there will also be a bit hard to come by. After the trade yesterday, Adam McCalvy gave us an idea of how playing time for Escobar could work out:

The immediate opportunity for Escobar may be in left field, with Christian Yelich on the IL with COVID. However, with Tyrone Taylor playing well currently, we might just see Escobar jump around positions for a bit, taking on the role of a utility infielder, to an extent. On days that Escobar plays at third base against a right-handed pitcher, here’s what the lineup could look like (after Yelich returns):

  1. Kolten Wong (2B)
  2. Christian Yelich (LF)
  3. Eduardo Escobar (3B)
  4. Willy Adames (SS)
  5. Omar Narvaez (C)
  6. Avisail Garcia (RF)
  7. Rowdy Tellez (1B)
  8. Lorenzo Cain (CF)
  9. Pitcher (P)

Meanwhile, on days against a left-handed pitcher:

  1. Kolten Wong (2B)
  2. Christian Yelich (LF)
  3. Eduardo Escobar (1B)
  4. Willy Adames (SS)
  5. Omar Narvaez (C)
  6. Avisail Garcia (RF)
  7. Lorenzo Cain (CF)
  8. Luis Urias (3B)
  9. Pitcher (P)

Either of those would be a strong lineup to work with. Plus, there’s still Tyrone Taylor coming off the bench, who will slot in on many days and has been strong as well. Between Escobar moving around the infield and Taylor moving around the outfield, players can easily slot in when others get a day off, and even if there is an injury, it wouldn’t be an immediate hit to depth. Filling out the bench for now would be Manny Pina, Keston Hiura, and Jackie Bradley Jr., with Jace Peterson to also potentially slot back in.

Once Christian Yelich and Jace Peterson return, some tough decisions may have to be made for the roster. There’s a strong chance that Hiura would be optioned back to Nashville for now, as he would not have a place to play for the time being. As for the other roster move, that’s a tough one to make. There’s no obvious choice here. If they want to keep 12 position players and 14 pitchers, the only players they could reasonably option would be Tyrone Taylor or Luis Urias. They could also designate Jace Peterson for assignment upon his return, but he’s been playing well enough that he might get claimed (.222/.353/.389 last 28 days), and he has already been outrighted to Nashville once this season. Going to 13 pitchers could help with the roster, as there are more pitchers who could be optioned, but that could also be affected by the Brewers acquiring a reliever before the deadline. This isn’t even looking at the decisions to be made once Travis Shaw and Daniel Vogelbach return from the IL. In addition, Shaw has begun a rehab assignment, so his decision is also not too far away.

Looking at what the Brewers gave up to get Escobar, the price was incredibly reasonable. Not only did the Brewers not have to give up a top prospect to get Escobar, they were also able to deal from positions of depth. Cooper Hummel has been playing very well for Nashville, batting .254/.435/.508 with 6 home runs and 15 RBI in 46 games this season, as well as 41 walks compared to just 26 strikeouts. However, he’s also an outfielder, with is a crowded position for the Brewers right now. He can play catcher, but has played in a more limited role there. In addition to that, he’s currently 26, and he would have been vulnerable in the Rule 5 draft if the Brewers didn’t add him to the 40-man this offseason. Meanwhile, Alberto Ciprian is definitely more of a wild card here. He’s been hot for the DSL Brewers 1, batting .378/.465/.514 this season. He’s only 18, but has received accolades from scouts, including Ben Badler of Baseball-America, who praised his raw power.

The Brewers definitely got a great deal with the addition of Eduardo Escobar. Acquiring him did not weaken their farm system much, and he provides the big piece of offense that the team needs. The only real concern is getting everyone playing time with him on the roster, and that will have to be addressed as he gets starts. However, this also gives the Brewers some strong depth for the rest of the season. It’s better to have too many good players than too few, and Craig Counsell always finds ways to get players the playing time they need. It’s a good problem for the Brewers to have as they make a push into the playoffs and hopefully a long playoff run.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.