The Braves' search for offense has taken a strange turn, with Atlanta trying to upgrade offensively at shortstop, acquiring Blue Jays shortstop Alex Gonzalez and two prospects for shortstop Yunel Escobar and lefty Jo-Jo Reyes .
Getting rid of Escobar may be an early retirement gift for Bobby Cox, who has long been frustrated by the talented but inconsistent Escobar, as well as his attitude and "hustle."
Still, Gonzalez, 33, had a career first-half in Toronto, hitting .259/.296/.497 with 17 home runs and 50 RBI. His 17 homers are already the second-best total of his career. He hit 18 in 2003 and 23 in 2004. As much as anything, the clock seems to be ticking on Gonzalez, who has already played 85 games this season. He hasn't played in more than 112 games since 2005.
Gonzalez at one time had the reputation as one of the top defensive shortstops in the country and has returned to an above-average status after dealing with lower leg injuries in the last few years. He's been healthy so far for the Blue Jays and also been helped by the artificial surface in Toronto.
Escobar may be the best defensive shortstop in baseball, but has been disappointing offensively this season, hitting .238/.334/.284 with no homers after hitting 14 last season.
Reyes is a throw-in, as are the prospects going to Toronto, Tim Collins and Tyler Pastronicky. The Blue Jays designated Ronald Uviedo to make room on the 40-man roster.
Overall, it seems an odd move. Sure, Cox may be tired of Escobar, but the Braves better have a backup ready at shortstop. It's also doubtful Gonzalez's power carries over to Turner Field. Escobar's reputation alone deserves more in return than Gonzalez. Look for Braves pitchers to notice a difference in the defense behind them soon.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
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