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Goodbye, Escobar; hello, Gonzalez
Braves land new shortstop in 5 player trade with Blue Jays
From left are 2010, file photos showing baseball players Alex Gonzalez and Yunel Escobar. The Atlanta Braves have acquired shortstop Alex Gonzalez and sent Yunel Escobar to the Toronto Blue Jays in a five-player trade. - photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA — The NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, looking to bolster their lineup for the second half of the season, acquired Alex Gonzalez in a swap of shortstops that sent Yunel Escobar to Toronto on Wednesday.

The Braves also traded left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes to the Blue Jays in the five-player deal while also adding left-handed minor league pitcher Tim Collins and minor league shortstop Tyler Pastornicky.

The 33-year-old Gonzalez is hitting .259 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs. He is tied for fifth in the American League with 43 extra-base hits.

"He's an outstanding defensive shortstop and he's having a very good offensive season," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We think he can improve our run production. He immediately leads our team in home runs."

Troy Glaus had 14 homers to lead the Braves at the All-Star break.

Escobar hit .299 with career-best totals of 14 homers and 76 RBIs last season. He has struggled this year, hitting only .238 with no homers and 19 RBIs.

"We feel that Yunel Escobar will absolutely turn it around," Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Tuesday.

"There's certainly an element of risk there, but we feel he has a very good opportunity to turn it around. I think if Yunel Escobar was doing what he did in the past, he's not available to us and this trade does not present itself."

Wren said Escobar could enjoy his best years after leaving the Braves.

"He very well may," Wren said. "He's a talented guy. But for our ballclub we felt we needed to make some adjustments. It just wasn't happening here right now."

The Braves also took on more salary. Escobar is making $435,000 this season. Gonzalez's salary is $2.75 million; his contract includes a 2011 club option for $2.5 million.

"Getting a guy we can control for a year and a half was important to us," Wren said.

Each shortstop is regarded as a strong defensive player.

"Alex may not be quite as flashy as Escobar, but he's an extremely solid shortstop," Wren said.

Wren said Gonzalez is expected to be with the team for Thursday night's game against Milwaukee.

"He's excited to be here and to be coming to a first-place team," Wren said.

The Braves have a four-game lead over the New York Mets and a 4½-game lead over Philadelphia.

Atlanta outfielders Jason Heyward (thumb) and Nate McLouth (concussion) are on the disabled list. Heyward, who was voted an All-Star starter as a rookie, could return on Thursday.

"With the guys coming off the DL in the next week or so we think we have the ability to improve our ballclub and also sit back and see what our needs may be at the trade deadline," Wren said.

The Blue Jays, one game under .500, are 12½ games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.

Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays "are not actively shopping" other players.

Reyes, 1-5 with a 5.70 ERA at Triple-A Gwinnett, has a 5-15 career record with Atlanta. Kris Medlen's emergence as Atlanta's No. 5 starter pushed Kenshin Kawakami to the bullpen and further blocked Reyes' return to Atlanta.

The Blue Jays optioned Reyes to Double-A New Hampshire.

Collins was 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA and nine saves in 35 games for Double-A New Hampshire.

Pastornicky was batting .258 with 16 doubles, 35 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 77 games for Class A Dunedin.

Wren said Collins and Pastornicky will report to Double-A Mississippi.