Rays Acquire Yunel Escobar From Marlins | The Process Report

Rays Acquire Yunel Escobar From Marlins

Within six weeks, Yunel Escobar went from a Process Report Player of Interest to everyday shortstop of the Rays. Following days of rumors, the Rays have acquired the 30-year-old from the Marlins in exchange for infield prospect Derek Dietrich.

Dietrich, 23, was the Rays’ second-round selection in 2010. The Georgia Tech product has primarily played shortstop as a professional, but moved across the bag to second base in 2012. Although he has played short since his time with the Yellow Jackets, he does not project to stick at the position at the big league level. Instead, he may become an offense-first second baseman or move to the hot corner where his defensive shortcomings can be protected.

Offensively, Dietrich shows above-average power for a middle infielder. He smashed 21 home runs in his full-season debut before adding 14 more bombs splitting time between Charlotte (A+) and Montgomery (AA) last season. On the other hand, his power comes with little discipline and contact issues; both red flags for a player with his age and experience.

A borderline top-10 prospect with the Rays, Dietrich’s path to the majors becomes considerably easier with the Marlins. Blocked by players like Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria in Tampa Bay, he may be put on the fast track in Miami—a team that lacks future options at several infield positions  most notably third base. Also consider the Marlins have a history of promoting prospects straight from Double-A.

While giving up a potential major-league contributor is hard to do for a team like the Rays, the chance to acquire an established one at a reduced rate is too great to pass up. Dietrich may be a legitimate player one day, but Yunel Escobar is already a legitimate major-league shortstop. And those are hard to come by—especially with a contract that amounts to three one-year deals at $5 million per season.

In October, I covered Escobar in-depth, so I’ll attempt to summarize here. A native of Cuba, Escobar has been an above-average, two-way shortstop over the past six seasons. He hits for average to all fields with an understanding of the strike zone, and gap power that provides a healthy amount of doubles. In 2012, he expanded his zone, leading to a decreased amount of on-base opportunities. Perhaps a byproduct of the aggression, his batting average suffered as well. Meanwhile, even with in a down season, his .644 OPS would have been an upgrade over the .617 OPS put up by the Rays’ collective shortstops not named Ben Zobrist.

Though he may have a bold personality, Escobar’s defensive game is generally unflashy in a good way. He is a sturdy defender at shortstop with a fantastic arm. Although he lacks pure speed, he has good instincts which allows him to react quickly with good jumps on balls off the bat.

Character wise there is risk. He has had several publicized transgressions and will make the occasional head-scratching play. Meanwhile, former teammate Chipper Jones once suggested a strong Latin clubhouse presence may help him resolve some of those issues. In Tampa Bay, Escobar will find strong-willed veterans like Jose Molina, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney.

In summation, the Escobar-for-Dietrich swap is about trading future potential for present-day ability. Dietrich may become a solid regular for the Marlins, but Escobar represents an immediate talent upgrade for the Rays at a position that was an glaring weakness in 2012. Aside from improving his own position, Escobar’s arrival also allows the team to move Ben Zobrist back to second base where his defense is superior or to a corner outfield position which the team has been looking to fill this winter.

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