The Tampa Bay Rays filled a consistent hole at shortstop, picking up Yunel Escobar from the Miami Marlins in exchange for infield prospect Derek Dietrich. Escobar's tenure in Miami was brief, as the Marlins immediately began trying to unload him once they acquired him from the Blue Jays last month in the megadeal that sent Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes (among others) north of the border.
The 30-year old Escobar had the worst season of his career in 2012 with Toronto, and his year was tainted by the eyeblack controvery at the end of the season that surrounded Escobar in a cloud of controversy. For the season, Escobar posted a .644 OPS with his usual excellent defense at short.
If Escobar is able to keep his head out of any controversial situations (like what happened with Escobar writing an anti-gay message on his eyeblack), he could be a very solid acquisition for the Rays at shortstop, a position where Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, and Ben Zobrist got most of the playing time in 2012. With the super-utility Zobrist probably earning most of the playing time at second this year, Escobar remains a substantial upgrade (in theory, at least) over Rodriguez (who struggled offensively) and Johnson (who struggled defensively). It will also give top prospect Hak-Ju Lee another season to mature in the minors. Lee, who turned 22 last month, struggled with a .692 OPS in AA in 2012. Escobar will make $5 million in 2013, and the Rays possess a pair of options for 2014 and 2015 at $5 million each.
As for the return heading to Miami, Dietrich is a 23-year old second round pick from 2010. In 98 games in high-A for the Rays in 2012, Dietrich had an .811 OPS with ten homers before OPSing .753 in 34 games following a late season promotion to AA. In his full season debut for the club in 2011, Deitrich blasted 21 homers for the Rays.
All in all, considering the state of the free agent market at the shortstop position, the Rays did well here...as long as Escobar doesn't create any turmoil off the field. His attitude problems ran him out of both Atlanta and Toronto, and he never got a chance to piss anyone off in Miami before leaving there. He's still an extremely talented player, albeit one who seemingly has no common sense and a fiery attitude.
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