Ever since the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays completed their twelve player blockbuster deal last month, it’s been widely believed that the Marlins were looking to move Yunel Escobar for other pieces. The 30 year old never appeared to be in Miami’s plans but would likely appeal to other teams in need of a potential upgrade at shortstop. It did not take long for the Marlins to find a deal to their liking, agreeing Monday night to send Escobar to the Tampa Bay Rays, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Miami will receive infielder Derek Dietrich in return.
Escobar received 608 plate appearances for the Blue Jays this past season, batting .253/.300/.344 with 9 HR and 51 RBI. It was generally a down year from an offensive standpoint for the six year veteran, but he was generally believed to still have some potential value despite a minor incident that resulted in the team suspending him for three games late in the season (he had an “inappropriate message” written into his eye black during a game). Escobar is tied to a very team friendly contract as well, further adding to the appeal from other teams. He’s due $5 Million for the 2013 season and then there are a pair of team options, each for $5 Million for the 2014 and 2015 seasons – a relative bargain for any team outside of Miami.
Tampa Bay has long searched for some continuity in their infield – beyond Evan Longoria at third base – and saw a trio of players see time at the shortstop position during the 2012 season. With Escobar in the fold, the team can now utilize Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, and most notably, Ben Zobrist, in other capacities. John Maddon gained a ton of positional flexibility with this addition.
While it’s not surprising to see that Miami moved Escobar, leaving Ricky Nolasco as the lone remaining player on the roster slated to earn more than $1.75 Million in 2013, what is surprising is the relatively poor return that the team agreed to accept. Dietrich was a 2nd Round pick in the 2010 Draft out of Georgia Tech. Between High-A and Double-A this past season, the 23 year old hit .279/.338/.457 in 563 plate appearances, splitting his time between second base and shortstop. Most scouts project that he’ll either stick at second or necessitate a move over to third base, but there is some belief that he’ll be able to develop into an everyday Major Leaguer at some point down the road. In all likelihood he’s likely heading to Miami’s Double-A affiliate when the season begins.
Dietrich is not a poor pickup by any means, but he is all the Marlins will receive in this deal. Considering the number of teams with potential interest and a need at shortstop (including the Oakland A’s, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, and others) it would have been reasonable to expect that a superior offer may have been out there for a player such as Escobar.