What a whirlwind offseason that must’ve been for Eduardo Escobar. The third baseman entered the offseason with his starting job at the hot corner looking pretty safe after his monstrous September helped keep the Mets in first place for most of the month. But out of nowhere, at 3 A.M. Eastern time on a December morning, the Mets swooped in to sign Carlos Correa away from the Giants to a 12-year deal to play third base, and suddenly Escobar was out of a job.
Teams inquired about trading for Escobar with the assumption Correa had third base on lockdown for the next decade-plus in Flushing. Of course, that was not to be. The Mets failed to come to an official agreement with Correa after viewing his medicals, and he went back to the Twins, opening third base back up for Escobar.
However, Escobar’s path to a starting job is still not completely clear of obstacles. Brett Baty, the #17 prospect in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus, is standing in line right behind Escobar to take over third base. Baty debuted in the majors last year and, despite homering in his first at bat, didn’t exactly explode out of the gates, but it was only 42 plate appearances. The 23-year-old could probably use some more time at Triple-A, but he won’t be there for long. If Escobar should get hurt or get off to a slow start, Baty will be right there to potentially take his job.
To his credit, Escobar has taken the role of mentoring Baty very seriously, even with the youngster gunning for his job. He called his role in mentoring Baty and other Mets prospects “the most important part of his career.” Based on that quote, as well as the inspiring speech he gave to Mets minor leaguers during spring training last year, he very clearly understands and cherishes his role in ushering in the next generation of players after him.
Indications are that the Mets do intend to start Baty in Triple-A, guaranteeing Escobar some runway in the early season, but the potential for Baty to win a job in spring training does still exist as Escobar will be heading off to play for Team Venezuela in the WBC, leaving the position for Baty to get lots of reps.
As for Escobar, he’s no Correa, and he doesn’t have Baty’s exciting offensive upside at this point, but he’s no slouch either. In fact, he might be one of the most predictable players in baseball. These are the stat lines for last three full seasons Escobar has played:
2019: 108 wRC+, 2.9 fWAR
2021: 107 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
2022: 106 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR
While the trend of him losing exactly one point of wRC+ and exactly .3 fWAR each year is amusing, it makes for a fairly dependable trend line. The 34-year-old does appear to be declining as he ages, but not at a rate where his skills are diminishing to the point of collapse, either. Having a veteran infielder who can reliably put up a 2-3 win season and provide an average level of offense is a good thing to have around, even though it’s not very exciting.
So while you should not expect Escobar to anchor the lineup like he did down the stretch last season, there’s no reason why he can’t still be a productive member of a good team. Look for the veteran to have similar production as last year, even if distribution is a little different. Perhaps a 105 wRC+ and 2.0 fWAR?