Alcides Escobar is unlikely to be re-signed by the Kansas City Royals. After seven years in Kansas City, he may only have a week left in a Royals uniform. He is one of six Royals who will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2017 season. Five of those six years were key contributors on the 2014-2015 teams that went to back to back World Series. All five hold a special place in the hearts of Royals fans. Last Word on Sports has already documented the contributions of Mike Moustakas and Jason Vargas. The stories for Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer will follow in the next week. Today we will look at what Escobar has meant to the team and its fans.
The Monster Deal
Escobar came to the Royals in one of the most impactful trades in the history of the franchise. In the off-season after the 2010 season, 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke asked to be traded to a team that had championship potential. Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt were sent to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Escobar, Cain, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. Two years later, Odorizzi was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with Patrick Leonard, Mike Montgomery and Wil Myers for James Shields and Wade Davis. That original transaction set the Royals on a course for their first Championship in 30 years. Escobar played an enormous role in that journey.
Escobar was exactly what the Royals thought that they were getting. He was extremely reliable defensively. He was aggressive at the plate and fast on the base paths. His game was in perfect harmony with what the Royals were trying to do. In his first three seasons as a Royal, he was solid defensively. There were no complaints. In 2014, the Royals acquired fellow Venezuelan Omar Infante. It’s unclear exactly how this impacted Escobar but it coincided with an increase in range, effort and athleticism. It’s as if Infante grabbed Escobar by the neck and pulled him close like a Mafioso and whispered in his ear, “You have to try just a little bit harder. You have to do more.” Whatever happened when Infante arrived, it turned Escobar into a special player. He went from a reliable defender to a human highlight reel.
2015 Was Special
2015 was a special season for Escobar in a lot of ways. His defense was spectacular and he made his first All-Star team. His teammates started calling him, “El Mago” which translates to the magician. He won the Gold Glove and his contributions in the ALCS earned him the MVP award for the series. Offensively, he was a bit of an anomaly. Statistically, there was no justification for putting him in the lead off spot other than the fact that the Royals won when he was there. He became notorious for swinging at the first pitch regardless of what it looked like.
Alcides Escobar | Gold Glove | 2015 Highlights ᴴᴰ https://t.co/LyCAjJxHlp
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This tendency led to one of the most iconic moments of the 2015 World Series. In the bottom of the first inning of Game-1, Escobar led off against Matt Harvey. Unbelievably, Harvey challenged him with a first pitch fastball over the middle of the plate. Escobar drove the ball into the gap in left-centerfield and Yoenis Céspedes couldn’t field it cleanly. It rolled along the warning track as Escobar rounded the bases for an inside the park home run. While defense is what Escobar does best, that will stand as the most memorable moment is his career as a Royal.
Another trademark of Escobar has been his durability. In three of the last four seasons, he hasn’t missed a start. He missed a total of 14 games in 2015 because of two different injuries. He has missed 15 additional starts in his entire seven year career as a Royal. While Cal Ripken Jr.’s record is safe, Escobar has the longest active streak of consecutive starts in MLB dating back to the 2015 season.
2016 and 2017 have produced plenty of magic moments for Escobar but it is unlikely that he is in the plan for the Royals’ future. His value on the free agent market will make him affordable but the Royals top minor league prospect is Raul Mondesi Jr., a short stop. His skill set has been compared to Francisco Lindor. It is likely that the Royals will commit to Mondesi as the starting short stop in 2018.
October 1st may be the last time we see Escobar in a Royals uniform. It will be difficult for fans to see him walk off the field for the last time. He will continue to make magic plays somewhere. He might have the opportunity to make some of them in Kauffman Stadium but it will be in another uniform. He’ll be welcomed by fans and teammates in the same way that Greg Holland and Kendrys Morales were on their returns. He gave the fans moments they will never forget. In their minds, he’ll be #ForeverRoyal.
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