In the case of the player who is arguably the Twins’ MVP since Aug. 1 — only arguably because of a guy named Miguel Sano — Major League Baseball’s nonwaiver trade deadline at the end of July has twice defined his career.
The subject here is shortstop Eduardo Escobar, and the years in question are 2012 and 2015.
Terry Ryan hasn’t made many trades since resuming his role as general manager after the disastrous 2011 season, but two of his best decisions on that front have involved Escobar.
On July 28, 2012, with the Twins mired in Year 2 of what would become a four-year funk, Escobar was acquired from the White Sox by Ryan and the Twins along with Pedro Hernandez for Francisco Liriano — an impending free agent who started 2012 with an 0-5 record and a 9.45 ERA.
Liriano made 11 starts after the trade with a 5.40 ERA. The White Sox faded and missed the playoffs. Liriano signed the next season with the Pirates, where he has flourished.
Hernandez posted a 6.83 ERA for the Twins in 2013 and has appeared in one game in the majors since.
Escobar was described at the time of the trade as a popular teammate whose best on-field attribute was versatility. The former is still clearly true; the latter label unfortunately also stuck with him even though he was only 23 when the Twins got him — more than young enough to be a prospect then and still plenty young now at 26 to get better.
After a pretty good 2014 season in which Escobar made just five errors in 98 starts at short and hit .275 with some pop in 465 plate appearances, the plan going into 2015 was to have Escobar be versatile while Danny Santana tried to be the shortstop of the future.
Santana stumbled badly at the plate and in the field. Escobar and Eduardo Nunez didn’t make enough of an impression in sporadic starts at shortstop before the deadline to dissuade many, including those in the Twins’ front office, from the opinion that the position was a revolving door in need of an upgrade.
Unlike 2012, though, Ryan this year made no deadline moves involving a shortstop. By standing pat, whether by choice or lack of options, Ryan made a better move than he could possibly have in a trade and rediscovered the player who had been there all along.
From Aug. 1 (the next game after the trade deadline) through Tuesday, Escobar posted an eye-popping on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.001 — comparable to Sano’s 1.043 in that span.
Escobar has done it while locking down a position of need, having committed just two errors in 44 starts at shortstop this season while batting .320 in those games.
The small-sample size OPS and batting average numbers aren’t sustainable, but we have a large enough sample size to say this:
Escobar is worthy of being the Twins’ shortstop of the present and future.