There is no doubt that the San Diego Padres need a shortstop for the upcoming season.
Yes, Yangervis Solarte is capable of playing the position, but with no disrespect to him, he is not the answer as an everyday option at a pivotal position on the diamond. Solarte is a solid offense weapon for the team and should not be asked to play out of his element. If Yan Solarte makes it past the winter and into the spring on the Padre roster, he will likely man second base, or possibly third.
Luis Urias and Fernando Tatis Jr. are both developing in the minors, and both have played the majority of the time at shortstop recently. It remains to be seen when each will be ready for major league service time, but they are getting closer. The team needs an answer. A stopgap. Someone to get them through the 2018 season. And then the team can re-evaluate their shortstop issue.
Cozart is the best of the bunch, but he comes with some risk. His age, 32, is a factor. As is the fact he is coming off a career year in which he trumped his previous high in almost every offensive category. He will command a three-year deal at the very least, and somewhere in the $30 million dollar neighborhood. The Padres can afford him, but to pay a veteran that much money could be a risky transaction in the long run.
The team should instead explore one-year deals with potential shortstops. On the top of the wish-list is Alcides Escobar, the Royals’ former shortstop.
Escobar is 31 and coming off a year in which he made $6.5 million dollars. The right-handed hitter is clearly on the downside of his career, but should still have a couple of productive seasons in him. Escobar put up a batting line of .250/.272/.357 in 2017 with six homers and 54 RBI. Not particular great numbers, but he did pick it up with the bat in the second half of 2017, where he put up a slash line of .282/.309/.424. Perhaps a change of scenery will help this Venezuelan native.
Escobar is a free swinger while at the plate. He walked only 15 times last year in 599 at bats, which resulted in the worst OBP of his 10 year career. He also struck out a career-high 102 times last season, which is not what you want to see from someone with little power. Escobar is not perfect. In fact he is far from it. He would probably be just an average player for the Padres, but that might just be what the team needs at this point.
With Tatis approaching fast, the need for a shortstop is diminishing each season. A stopgap player is really what the team covets. Someone who can mentor young players and, at the same time, perform respectfully at the position. Alcides Escobar has played in 162 games in three out of the last four seasons. He may not be flashy, but the man puts in an effort everyday at a position where you need consistency.
Being that he is Latino, he can possibly also mentor a Tatis or Luis Urias on what it takes to be a major leaguer. The 2015 Gold Glove winner is slightly above average defensively, so that should not be a concern. He has decent speed and suitable range to make plays to both sides of him. His arm is solid and his footwork has remained on par even though he has been on the field for almost 1,300 games.
On the bases, Escobar has plus speed and can swipe a bag for you if you need it. He stole 31 bases in 2014, but only stole four last season. I am not sure if he was banged up or if the Royals were just less aggressive on the base paths. The speed is still there, so it’s not like he is a slug once he gets on the bases. The issue has been getting him on the base paths to make a difference. I would not expect 30-plus bases from him in a season, but he is capable of double digit steals.
Alcides Escobar could be a logical choice for the Padres, but the market will determine what will happen in the end. The team will not want to invest too much into the shortstop position. If one falls to them at a suitable price, then they will surely pull the trigger. If Alcides Escobar is still looking for a job in late January, then the Padres are a very likely choice. There should be options for the San Diego Padres, and he is towards the top of the list.