The Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves have swapped shortstops, with Toronto getting underperforming Yunel Escobar in exchange for hot-hitting Alex Gonzalez and a pair of prospects.
Toronto also received left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, who was immediately optioned to double-A, while sending minor-leaguers Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky to Atlanta.
Escobar, 27, emerged as one of the best-hitting young shortstops in baseball over the last two years before falling on hard times this season.
In 2009, he set career highs in home runs (14) and runs batted in (76) while hitting .299 with a sterling .377 on-base percentage. This year, he has yet to homer in 75 games and has just 12 extra-base hits. His batting average has dipped to .238 with a .334 OBP.
Gonzalez, 33, proved to be a fine pickup for the Jays this season. Known more for his glove, he has already smashed 17 homers and collected 50 RBIs — excellent production for someone signed to a one-year, $2.75-million US contract with a club option for slightly less money next year.
The shortstop switch appears to fill needs for both teams. Atlanta, a World Series contender with a four-game lead atop the National League East, is looking for players who can help them win immediately. Toronto, well out of the hunt in the AL East, has been trying to stockpile younger talent for the future.
Reyes, 25, made just one appearance with the Braves this season, spending most of his time in triple-A.
To make room on its 40-man roster, the Blue Jays designated righty Ronald Uviedo for assignment.
Neither Collins nor Pastornicky, both age 20, was considered to be among Toronto's best prospects.
Collins was pitching out of the bullpen for the Jays' double-A affiliate in New Hampshire. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007, he has a career record of 14-9 with a 2.40 earned-run average in the minors, sometimes attracting attention because of his small stature. Collins is listed at five-foot-seven and 155 pounds.
Pastornicky, a shortstop, was a fifth-round pick in 2008. He batted .258 with six homers in 77 games this season with single-A Dunedin.