Kansas City Royals: The end of the Alcides Escobar era
After eight years of being a constant presence in the Kansas City Royals lineup, an era is coming to an end in Kansas City. Alcides Escobar is now a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
Alcides Escobar was acquired by the Kansas City Royals after the Royals agreed to trade Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to Milwaukee for Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress during the offseason in 2010. Little did we know, this trade would completely change the way fans view the Royals.
When the Royals acquired Escobar, he was just beginning to break into the majors after being a Top-50 prospect in baseball. As a 23-year-old, he showed some success at the big league level.
Over three years and 192 games Escobar was hitting a decent .250/.298/.335 slash, while showing off his speed, hitting 17 doubles, 11 triples, and stealing 14 bases. When the Royals made the trade, they were pushing for defense and speed, and Escobar fit the bill.
Recap on Royals Success
After the trade, Escobar immediately took over as the everyday shortstop for the Kansas City Royals. His defense captured the attention of ESPN and fans across baseball. Whether it be a quick diving grab, appearing out of nowhere to make a diving catch, or a Derek Jeter trade-mark throw to first, the Royals had an everyday shortstop for the first time in years.
Offensively, Escobar was league average. During his eight years in Kansas City, he hit a decent .259/.292/.344 slash. Some years were better than others, but overall he was pretty consistent at the plate statistically.
Arguably one of the most impressive things about Escobar though was his ability to stay healthy. During his time in Kansas City, he averaged 156 games a year. In fact, from 2014-2017 he played 162 games three times. He was essentially the Royals version of Iron Man.
While fans were always frustrated with Escobar’s inability to let the first pitch go by without a swing in nearly every at-bat, when the Royals needed him to step up he did. During the 2014 and 2015 playoff runs Escobar hit an impressive .311/.326/.467 and provided one of the most memorable Game 1, leadoff at-bats in Royals history.
Even though it was common knowledge that Escobar will swing at the first pitch, Matt Harvey threw a fastball down the middle of the plate, resulting in a lead-off inside the park homerun in 2015. That is a play no one in Kansas City will ever forget.
The End of an Era
The 2015 ALCS MVP and World Series Champion walked off the field in 2017 with fellow core members Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain, in what was originally thought to be the last time either played in Kansas City. It was an emotional moment for Kansas City Royals fans because this signaled an end of an era for the Royals. With an uncertain future looming in Kansas City, saying goodbye was hard, but something we all knew had to happen.
With the projected contracts being what they were, no one in Kansas City thought a return for any of the Core-Four was possible, and for the most part fans were okay with this after getting over the initial emotions.
And to be frank, to hold each legacy of each individual intact, neither should have returned.
The Unfortunate Return
When new’s broke that Escobar was returning, it came with mixed emotions. The reason for the mixed emotions simply came down to the fact that the Kansas City Royals had the future piece in place already at shortstop. Adalberto Mondesi was a name that we as fans had heard about since his MLB debut in the 2015 World Series.
Which was followed with reports about how great he was going to be. So the return was frustrating because the new era of Mondesi was supposed to start in 2018.
As the 2018 season continued, Escobar’s struggles at the plate only fueled the frustrations for Royals fans. Even though he finished the year hitting .231/.279/.313 he spent most of the year hitting .200 or just below. In fact, Escobar was one of the worst offensive hitters to play every day in the MLB.
What didn’t help his cause was after Mondesi made the jump to the MLB level, he took the league by storm. Mondesi hit .276/.306/.498 with 13 doubles, three triples, and 14 homeruns over just 75 games. To add, Mondesi then stole 32 bases. While Mondesi didn’t make the jump sooner due to injuries, his success left a sour taste in the mouth of fans of “what could have been”.
I do believe that Escobar’s legacy in Kansas City is a little smudged after his 2018 season. However, the Royals wouldn’t have had the success they did over his eight years without him. His defensive dominance at the shortstop position was a safety blanket for every pitcher. His ability to come up clutch at the plate when needed provided the Royals with an offensive spark more often than not. And let’s not forget the coined phrase “Esky-Magic”.
Once Escobar decides to hang it up, the real conversation that is going to have to be discussed is whether or not he deserves to be a member of the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. While his overall numbers are not as glamorous as most would prefer, his presence and part in the success the Royals had from 2013-2016 would not have been possible without him.
The Baltimore Orioles signing Escobar to a minor league deal is a great low-risk/high reward type move. With the Orioles rebuilding, having a player like Escobar to fill in when needed and provide leadership and quality defense for the pitching staff will help bridge to another future shortstop for them.
I know Royals Nation wishes nothing but success for Escobar on his future endeavors. His time in Kansas City will never be forgotten by fans who were able to watch.
Good luck, and thank you, Alcides Escobar!