In the spring of 2004, the Royals gave their pre-arbitration shortstop, Alcides Escobar, an $11m, 4 year contract extension.
This afternoon, the Royals gave their pre-arbitration shortstop a $10.5m, 4 year extension.
Last time around, the Royals were re-upping the reigning AL Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa who has just finished his first full season with a .287/.338/.451 slash line to go along with 17 homers, 21 stolen bases, 28 doubles, 7 triples a 101 oPS+ and a .344 wOBA. Berroa would never again match any single one of those numbers. 2003 was a down year for AL rookies so there was little argument over the choice of Berroa and he was seen as having a bright future even if he was never likely to be an MVP contender. The contract looked pretty good at the time – giving the Royals some cost certainty and the player some security.
Although you could argue Berroa earned the balance of that contract purely with his efforts in his rookie season, the deal was clearly a poor one for the Royals. However, the deal they inked today with Alcides Escobar should represent decent value.
Escobar has never had an offense season anything close to Berroa’s 2003 – his career .294 OBA is pretty awful – but he’s already a far superior defensive shortstop than Berroa ever was. $10.5 million over 4 years for possibly elite defensive shortstop, even one that barely hits, is pretty good value for the Royals. To compare it again to the Berroa deal, the Royals have actually managed to buck 8 years worth of contract inflation to sign Escobar to a slightly cheaper deal than they gave Berroa.
The likelihood is that Escobar never gets much past ‘below average’ at the plate, but as long as he’s strong defensively this isn’t the worst deal in the world. If, as many expect, the Royals are contenders in 2-3 years and are in a position to upgrade at shortstop then this deal means Escobar should be easy enough to trade. Alternatively, they could move him to a backup role and not be weighed down by the deal. The best case scenario is that Escobar makes some offensive improvements while maintaing his defensive skills and the Royals can exercise one or both of the club options which cover his first two years of free agency. As with the recent Salvador Perez extension, there’s very little downside here for the club.