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Hot Stove: The Rays Acquire Yunel Escobar
Nate Springfield | Thursday December 6th, 2012
Yunel Escobar moves from the Marlins to the Rays. (US Presswire)
Yunel Escobar moves from the Marlins to the Rays. (US Presswire)
On Tuesday evening, the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Yunel Escobar from the Miami Marlins in exchange for infield prospect Derek Dietrich.

This is the second time Escobar has been traded this off-season, in early November the Marlins had acquired him in an 11-player trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yunel Escobar had a down year at the plate in 2012, carrying a triple-slash line of .253/.300/.344 with nine home runs over 608 plate appearances for the Jays. He has not been a very consistent hitter over his career, having peaks and valleys in most of his offensive categories from season to season.  In 2011, he carried a much better line of .290/.369/.413 with 11 home runs over 590 plate appearances, and posted a career best OPS of .812 in 2009 (excluding his shortened 2007 rookie season).  One thing that has been consistent throughout Escobar's career is his above average fielding at the shortstop position, and the perception of him being bad for a team's clubhouse.

In Tampa, the 30 year-old native of Cuba is currently penciled in as the team's starting shortstop.  By acquiring Escobar, the Rays are following a formula that has worked for them in the past - buying low on a player that has shown the potential to be one of the better players in the game at his position.  It also shows, they are continuing to focus on putting a good defense on the field to back up their above average pitching staff, more so than acquiring a offensive minded player for a highly demanding defensive position.

Escobar is owed five million dollars in 2013, and has a five million dollar club option for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  At that price, he can be considered a low-risk/high-reward gamble, especially if he plays well enough for the Rays to consider picking up his options for the following seasons.

The Marlins, in return, get the salary relief of trading away Escobar's five million dollar contract and infield prospect Derek Dietrich.  Dietrich has spent the last three seasons playing in Tampa's minor league system, ending the 2012 season at Double-A Montgomery.  In the field, he had split time at second base and short when playing at the different levels of Single-A ball, but only played second, and acted as the team's designated hitter, once reaching Montgomery.  Entering the 2012 season Baseball America recognized the 23 year-old as the best power hitter in Tampa's system.  In his 146 plate appearances with Double-A Montgomery, he posted a .271/.324/.429 triple slash line with four home runs and 36 strikeouts.  He figures to start the 2013 season with the Marlins Double-A affiliate.

From a fantasy perspective, Yunel Escobar goes into the 2013 season with a higher value than if he had stayed with the Miami Marlins.  As mentioned before, his offensive numbers are not consistent, so he is only a true option in deeper mixed and AL-Only leagues.  Joe Maddon and the Rays have done well with getting the most out of their players, and maybe the fact the team traded for him will give Escobar a reason to work a little harder.  Derek Dietrich is a non-factor for fantasy players, even in a deep franchise format.
Nate SpringfieldNate Springfield joined the Baseball Press crew for the 2010 season and hosts the site's podcast. His love for the game has grown thanks to fantasy baseball, with a specialty in NL-only auction leagues. You can contact him at nate@baseballpress.com or follow him on Twitter @NateSpringfield.