Yunel Escobar’s stay with the Miami Marlins lasted all of two weeks.
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The payroll-slashing Marlins dealt the shortstop and his $5 million salary across Florida to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night for minor league infielder Derek Dietrich.
Escobar’s departure lowers the Marlins’ projected Opening-Day payroll to a major league-low $38 million, which includes $4.5 million owed Toronto next year, $1.5 million due to Arizona in 2013 as part of the Heath Bell trade and $1 million to account for a prorated share of Bell’s signing bonus.
Combined with the Toronto trade, the Marlins have pared $151.5 million in payroll from their books in recent weeks, just two months after finishing their first season in a new ballpark built with taxpayer money.
Right-hander Ricky Nolasco, the team’s highest-paid remaining player with a salary of $11.5 million next year, would prefer to be traded, too, agent Matt Sosnick said Monday.
”We’ll take a little timeout on the trade front,” said Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, who promised the payroll savings will be reinvested.
Acquired in the 12-player trade that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to Toronto on Nov. 19, the 30-year-old Escobar batted .253 last season with nine homers and 51 RBI.
He is a .282 career hitter in six major league seasons with 53 homers and 298 RBI for Atlanta (2007-10) and Toronto (2010-12). Escobar was suspended for three games in September for wearing eye black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game against Boston.
”I think he definitely learned a lesson from the eye-black incident,” Rays executive vice president for baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. ”I think it had a real impact on him and that he feels remorse about it. And the digging that we did – we believe that it was an isolated incident and that nothing of that nature will be a concern going forward, or we wouldn’t have acquired him.”
Beinfest said that when the Marlins obtained Escobar, he said he was willing to move to third base — Adeiny Hechavarria, also acquired from the Blue Jays, is slated for shortstop.
”He had a change of heart,” Beinfest said.
Escobar’s contract includes $5 million options for 2014 and 2015. His acquisition allows Ben Zobrist to serve in a utility role.
”We believe that he’s going to fit in really well in our clubhouse,” Friedman said. ”It sounds like he’s extremely happy about being here, being a Ray, and he knows he’s going to be welcomed into our clubhouse. But yeah, I think it’s safe to say we did a lot of work on it, talked to a lot of people and felt comfortable that it’s a calculated risk on a good player that we feel like can help us and fit in really well in our environment.”
The 23-year-old Dietrich, a second-round draft pick in 2010, was selected MVP of Class-A Charlotte this year, batting .282 with a team-high 10 homers and 58 RBI. He was promoted to Double-A Montgomery on July 28 and finished with a combined .279 average with 14 homers and 75 RBI.