Brewers deal for D-backs All-Star Escobar

Veteran switch-hitter set to play many positions; Crew sends back 2 Minors players

July 29th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers have the pitching to be a problem for opponents should they reach the postseason.

As for the offense? They’ve been working on it.

For the third time since Opening Day, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns traded for a bat on Wednesday in versatile veteran and 2021 National League All-Star , acquired from the D-backs for a pair of Minor League position players. Triple-A utility man Cooper Hummel and rookie infielder Alberto Ciprian are heading to Arizona in the deal.

Brewers get:
INF Eduardo Escobar
D-backs get: OF Cooper Hummel, INF Alberto Ciprian

Escobar, an 11-year Major League veteran who’s a free agent at the end of this season, entered Wednesday tied for fifth in the NL with 22 home runs and tied for sixth with 65 RBIs. The Brewers, who defeated the Pirates, 7-3, expect him to join the team during a three-game series in Atlanta that runs from Friday-Sunday in the wake of Friday’s 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline. 

“At the end of the day, it’s a new opportunity for me,” Escobar told reporters in Arlington, where the D-backs are playing the Rangers. “I’m so happy that the organization in Milwaukee is giving me an opportunity to help this team win. You saw me every day here playing really hard. I’ll do the same thing over there. I’ll make people happy there, too. I’m going to play 200 percent every day.”

He added, “I’ll be focused and play hard every day and help Milwaukee win the World Series.”

The switch-hitting, multi-positional Escobar will give manager Craig Counsell another player capable of bouncing all over the infield and potentially even manning left field. He is expected to be particularly useful at third base against right-handed pitching and at first base -- a position he has yet to play in the big leagues -- against left-handed pitching.

First base has been a problem for the Brewers, who went into the season expecting former first-round Draft pick to handle everyday duties at first. But with Hiura slashing .167/.258/.304 and twice being demoted to the Minor Leagues, Brewers first basemen rank 27th of 30 teams with an 84 wRC+. With left-handed slugger Daniel Vogelbach on the injured list with a hamstring injury, Stearns already made one move to add some thump to the position with a deal for Blue Jays first baseman Rowdy Tellez, a left-handed hitter.

“That’s not a position [Escobar has] played before, but it’s something we believe he can do and from my conversation with him earlier this evening, he’s certainly up for it,” Stearns said.

That deal came six weeks after Stearns made a splash in mid-May to acquire shortstop Willy Adames from the Rays, which has proven an impact move so far. The Brewers have a 39-19 record since Adames joined the team.

Escobar, 32, arrives with a similarly strong reputation for his off-the-field presence. He was slashing .246/.300/.478 for Arizona this season. He’s posted some of his best offensive numbers in recent seasons, including an .824 OPS in a 2018 split between the Twins and D-backs, and a career-best .831 OPS in ‘19 in Arizona.

“We’re talking about a very accomplished switch-hitter. He’s got tremendous positional versatility, can play all over the field -- infield and outfield,” Stearns said. “He gives us a lot of options, and one of the things that we are trying to accomplish prior to the [Trade Deadline] is preparing ourselves for the unknown of what could happen over the next two months. We don’t have the luxury anymore of plugging holes in August, so redundancy everywhere is really important, especially for a team that has aspirations of making the playoffs and hopefully going deep into the playoffs.”

That’s a critical point: Unlike some past years, teams can no longer make trades after Friday. They will be limited to waiver claims and free-agent pickups.

“We’ve added a player who gives us a very high level of redundancy around the diamond,” Stearns said. “I’m not sure there’s another player available who can really give us that level of support at every position.”

Escobar is leaving the D-backs team with the worst winning percentage in MLB for a Brewers team that had a seven-game lead over second-place Cincinnati in the NL Central standings at the time of the trade.

“You know the situation with the team. It’s a really bad year for Arizona,” Escobar said. “Especially when you’re going to be a free agent, it’s really hard to stay on the team. For me, I don’t have control. The only control I have is to come and play hard every day. People in the front office, I respect their decision all the time. If the team were close to making the playoffs, would they trade their best player? I’m not saying I’m the best player, but one of the best players. I don’t think so.

"I understand the situation. I understand the process.”

Hummel, 26, was an 18th-round Draft pick in 2016 who had a .942 OPS in 46 games at Triple-A Nashville, where he played left field, first base and catcher. Ciprian, 18, signed with the Brewers out of the Dominican Republic in 2019 for a $500,000 bonus.

When Stearns discussed the deal late Wednesday night, he was still in his office at American Family Field, where he’s been talking trades with other teams. The Brewers have also discussed adding pitching, particularly bullpen arms after trading three relievers to land Adames and Tellez.

“We're trying to prepare for the unexpected,” Stearns said. “We have to have a sufficient assortment of players when the clock hits 3 p.m. CT on Friday to get us through two and hopefully three months of competitive baseball. We're going to need all these guys.

“Sometimes, it's going to feel like there's a playing time crunch but that will take care of itself pretty quickly. We're going to need every single one of these guys to help us get to where we want to go.”