Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rays acquire shortstop Yunel Escobar for prospect

Yunel Escobar has solid numbers but a reputation for being enigmatic.

Getty Images

Yunel Escobar has solid numbers but a reputation for being enigmatic.

NASHVILLE — The Rays made another interesting low-cost move that could have a high payoff Tuesday night by acquiring shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Marlins.

In Escobar, the Rays get a 30-year-old with an intriguing portfolio, enough talent to pair an above-average glove with some solid offensive numbers — a career .282 average and .353 on-base percentage — but a reputation of being flamboyant and somewhat enigmatic, with a controversial incident in his recent past.

And to get him, the Rays had to give up only infield prospect Derek Dietrich, MVP of one of their Class A teams.

"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,'' executive vice president Andrew Friedman said early this morning. "We feel like he really helps solidify our infield defense, which should be a real strength next year.''

With Escobar taking over as the primary shortstop, Ben Zobrist will return to his multi-positional role, splitting time between the outfield and second base, and fill in at shortstop. "This allows us to deploy Zo in more effective ways and really utilize his versatility,'' Friedman said.

Escobar was acquired by the Marlins in last month's mega-deal with Toronto but didn't really fit — they planned to play him at third base — and was expected to be moved. He hit .253 last season with nine homers and 51 RBIs for the Blue Jays with a career-low .300 on-base percentage in somewhat of a down year, though his .982 fielding percentage ranked fourth among major-league shortstops. Over the previous five seasons with Atlanta and Toronto, he posted a .289 average and .366 on-base percentage.

He also comes with an appealing contract, $5 million for the 2013 season and team options at $5 million for the next two.

The Cuban native was involved in a controversy this season while in Toronto, suspended three games after wearing eye-black stickers during a September game with a gay slur written on them. He later apologized, saying it was a joke and that he had no problems with homosexuals.

"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,'' Friedman said. "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.''

Further, Friedman said: "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.''

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 in 98 games for advanced Class A Charlotte and was named team MVP, then moved to Double-A Montgomery and hit .271 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 34 games. Friedman said he projects to be an offensive second baseman and trading him "caused a lot of angst.''

The Rays in the last week have added a new shortstop and first baseman, with the deal to sign James Loney set to become official, and retained infielder Ryan Roberts. They still need a DH, potentially another outfielder, a couple relievers and maybe another catcher. Friedman is also talking with several teams interested in the Rays surplus of starters, with most of the attention on James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson.

"We've got a lot of balls in the air,'' Friedman said. "We've had conversations on every front — with free agents, a number of different scenarios, trades where we're talking about pitching and a decent amount where we're not."

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Rays acquire shortstop Yunel Escobar for prospect 12/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 1:25am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays journal: Erasmo Ramirez ready to start a day after closing game

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Erasmo Ramirez was on the mound to finish Sunday's 15-inning marathon win over the Twins and will start tonight's game against the Rangers.

    The Rays’ Erasmo Ramirez throws 12 pitches in the 15th inning against the Twins to earn the save then says after the game that he’s ready to make his scheduled start against the Rangers: “My arm feels good.”
  2. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  4. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Twins game

    The Heater

    The Rays won because they got two innings of good relief from each of the two pitchers who contributed to them losing Saturday's game, Danny Farquhar (who again struck out Miguel Sano) and Tommy Hunter, who both posted zeroes.