We experienced some excitement recently when we heard that the Oakland Athletics had claimed Yunel Escobar on trade waivers, but the moment has passed and Escobar is going nowhere. Direct from manager Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay Rays are going to pull Escobar back from waivers, and he will remain with the team until the conclusion of the season. The A’s did not give the Rays an offer that appealed to them enough to trade their starting shortstop, and it was unsurprising for multiple reasons.
The obvious way that we knew that Escobar was almost surely gong to remain with the Rays was that we heard reports from Marc Topkin and Susan Slusser stating exactly that. Slusser gave us one concrete reason aside from simply using her sources: Oakland shortstop Jed Lowrie is not far away from returning. Escobar made sense for the A’s as a replacement at shortstop, and suddenly that was no longer necessary. The A’s could have moved Lowrie to second base to replace the less-than-spectacular Eric Sogard and started Escobar at short anyway, but their interest in a deal certainly decreased once they found out about Lowrie’s injury status.
The Rays could have made a trade happen anyway, although calling it a trade is being a little generous. They could have simply given the Athletics Escobar and all the money he is owed, as a team can do whenever one of its players is claimed on trade waivers. But with Escobar owed just $12 million the next two years plus a $1 million buyout for 2016, his contract wasn’t enough of an albatross for them to justify such a move. That is both because they believe Escobar can rebound and because there is no long-term solution at shortstop in the organization right now. Ben Zobrist could hold down the position next season, but Nick Franklin is more of a second baseman and Hak-Ju Lee has work to do reestablishing himself as a realistic candidate after a disastrous 2014. The Rays could have been willing to trade Escobar nonetheless had they received a legitimate offer, but clearly the A’s were not sufficiently interested.
At the end of the day, the Oakland Athletics had nothing to lose claiming Yunel Escobar, and nothing happens to them after a deal could not be reached. For Rays fans, they received an aftershock of the trade-deadline thrill that they experienced three and a half weeks ago and get an intriguing what-if scenario to discuss later on. Escobar being claimed turned into nothing, but it was an exhilarating nothing to say the least.