NASHVILLE, Tenn. — How will the Yunel Escobar era be remembered in Miami? Probably not at all.
The talented but controversial shortstop was traded from the Marlins to the Tampa Bay Rays late Tuesday night in exchange for infield prospect Derek Dietrich. The trade comes just weeks after he was shipped from Toronto in the mega 12-player deal made with Miami.
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The Rays were in need of a shortstop and the Marlins had been trying to trade Escobar, who figured to be the odd man out with prospect Adeiny Hechavarria — also acquired in the deal with Toronto — projected to be Miami’s starting shortstop.
“It’s a calculated risk on a good player that we feel like can help us and fit in really well in our environment,” Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman told reporters early Wednesday. “We feel like he really helps solidify our infield defense, which should be a real strength next year.”
Escobar hit .253 with nine home runs and 51 RBI for the Blue Jays in 2012. But that doesn’t begin to tell his story.
The gifted shortstop was suspended for three games last season after writing a gay slur in Spanish on his eye-black sticker during a game. He apologized a short time later, saying the incident was a joke and a misunderstanding and that he had no problems with homosexuals.
“We did a lot of homework on Yunel and 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 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.”
Escobar will make $5 million in 2013 and has $5 million options the following two seasons. The move could bring the Marlins payroll down to close to $30 million next year. They have just $21 million in salary commitments for seven players for 2013.
A second round draft pick by the Braves in 2005, Escobar broke into the big leagues with Atlanta in 2007. He’s a career .282 hitter and has a .353 on-base percentage in six seasons with the Braves and Blue Jays.
The 23-year-old Dietrich was a second round pick of the Rays in 2010. He hit .282 with 10 home runs and 58 RBI in 98 games for High-A Charlotte before finishing the year with Double-A Montgomery.
“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,” Friedman said. “(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.”
The Marlins plan to reinvest Escobar’s $5 million on a third baseman, either in free agency or trade. They had asked Escobar about moving to third base, something he said he wasn’t comfortable doing.