UPDATED: Rays acquire SS Escobar
UPDATE, 1:37: A couple of quotes from Rays exec VP Andrew Friedman on Escobar:
* "We feel comfortable it's a calculated risk on a good player that we feel like can help us and fit in really well in our environment."
* "We feel like he really helps solidify our infield defense, which should be a real strength next year.''
* "We did a lot of homework on Yunel and we believe that he's going to fit in really well in our clubhouse. It sounds like he's extremely happy about being here, being a Ray, and he knows that he is going to be welcomed into our clubhouse.''
* "I think he definitely learned a lesson from the eye black incident, that it had a real impact on him and he feels remorse about it. In the digging that we did we believe it was an isolated incident and that nothing of that nature will be a concern going forward or we wouldn't have acquired him.''
* "It's never easy for us to trade prospects. They're more valuable to us than they are to any team in baseball. But we're always trying to balance the short-term and the long-term.''
* "Trading Derek caused a lot of angst in that he has a chance to be a really good offensive second baseman who hits left-handed. (We) just felt like with where our team was, the fit, everything else, that at the end of the day, it made sense for us. And obviously, the years of control with Yunel was a factor. We wouldn't have given up someone of Derek's quality for a year of someone who fit us really well."
UPDATE, 11:59: The Rays announced just before midnight the deal was official.
BREAKING: The Rays are set to acquire SS Yunel Escobar from the Marlins for infield prospect Derek Dietrich.
Escobar is an interesting acquisition, a talented player offensively and defensively but with a reputation of being flamboyant and somewhat enigmatic.
Escobar, 30, was acquired by the Marlins in last month’s mega-deal with Toronto but didn’t really fit and expected to be moved, and the Rays seized on the opportunity to add him without disrupting their major-league roster.
Escobar hit .253 last season with nine homers and 51 RBIs and has a career .282 average and .353 on-base percentage in six seasons with the Braves and Blue Jays. He also is affordable, with a $5 million salary this season, and $5 million options the next two.
Escobar also was involved in a controversy this season while in Toronto, suspended three games after having a gay slur written in Spanish on his eye-black stickers during a September game. He later apologized and said it was a joke and that he had no problems with homosexuals.
The trade for Escobar would seem to mean the end of the Ben Zobrist experiment at shortstop. With Ryan Roberts, whose best position is second base, tendered a contract, Zobrist would seem headed back to the outfield, or at least to his old time-sharing between second base and rightfield. Matt Joyce could get more playing time in left.
The Marlins didn’t seem to have much use for Escobar, saying he was penciled in to play third base.
Earlier Tuesday, Escobar told the Spanish language paper El Nuevo Herald, “I came here with a lot of excitement to play in front of Miami’s Latin fans, especially the Cuban ones, but in these moments I think the best for my career is to go somewhere else where I’m appreciated more. I think I have a lot to offer as a ballplayer, but you need to be wanted. I’m not feeling that here.”
Dietrich, 23, was recently ranked the No. 9 prospect in the Rays system. A second-round pick in 2010, he hit .282 with 10 homers and 58 RBIs for advanced Class A Charlotte and was named team MVP after playing in 98 games. He moved up to Double-A Montgomery and hit .271 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 34 games there.