The KC Royals might be the best fit for Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, even though they have gold glove winner Alcides Escobar at the position.
If Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore is looking to bolster his offense, the best place to look might be the team’s weakest bat. That is clearly shortstop Alcides Escobar, despite his reputation as a stellar defender with his 2015 Gold Glove. Escobar is slashing .258/.281/.314 for a modest .594 OPS (On Base Plus Slugging) and a 57 OPS+ (43% worse than a league average hitter).
With the Cincinnati Reds clearly falling out of the race at 29-48, they’re certain to be shopping all of their veterans with limited seasons of team control remaining like 30-year-old Zack Cozart.
While Cozart is at least in Escobar’s league with the glove, (he has a career 8.6 dWAR compared to a 6.6 career dWAR for Escobar), his bat has come alive the last two seasons. The now 30-year-old Cozart slashed .258/.310/.459 with 9 home runs in 214 plate appearances in 2015, and is now hitting .268/.314/.479 with 11 dingers in 2016.
Though Cozart’s batting average is similar to Escobar, he posses significantly more pop. Swapping out Cozart for Escobar could not only help the KC Royals offense, it would also provide a bit of salary relief. Cozart is only making $3 million in 2016, with one more salary arbitration controlled season remaining in 2017.
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The sticking point is that Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore would have to make the tough decision to move on from a player that has become part of his team’s core group. Escobar has held the starting shortstop position for the KC Royals since coming over from the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 as a part of the Zack Greinke trade. Along with fellow Brewers alumnus Lorenzo Cain, Escobar has helped establish the Kansas City Royals as one of the best defensive teams in baseball.
Though the move makes sense if you look at numbers, I just don’t see it happening in reality. Escobar is waking up at the plate this season, and his defensive metrics in 2016 don’t quite match the eye test. Further, removing Zack Cozart from the bandbox that is Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati would put a crimp in his power numbers, which are the whole reason for the KC Royals to do the deal.
As I’ve said with respect to the idea of landing a left-handed outfielder, I believe Dayton Moore would be better served to add a starting pitcher to the Kansas City Royals than any position player. With Kendrys Morales recovering from his early season slump, the offense appears to be mostly fixed. The KC Royals only have a few good trade chips in their farm system. Using them to pursue pitching help makes much more sense.