It was never meant to be for Yunel Escobar in Miami. The situation was just too perfect – shamed Cuban ex-pat gets a second chance in his adopted home, playing before dozens of indifferent Marlins fans and a few excited Cubanos. Sadly, this dream will never become reality.
With the Marlins planning to use the other Cuban shortstop acquired from Toronto, Adeiny Hechavarria, as their everyday shortstop, Yunel expressed his desire to leave Miami in a Miami Sun-Sentinel report today. The former Brave and Blue Jay believes his skills as a shortstop would be wasted at third base, stating there are enough teams in the league for both Hechavarria and himself to find steady work at short.
Turns out Escobar didn’t have to wait long to his dreams to come true. Just as Rays fans and writers have long wished, the Island of Misfit Toys is about to get another lost soul. Reports suggest the Tampa Bay Rays are close to acquiring Escobar from the Marlins in exchange for Rays shortstop prospect Derek Dietrich, the Rays number 15 prospect in Fangraps preseason rankings coming off a strong season at Double-A. The deal was first reported by The Knobler.
The Rays make no bones about their willingness to ride with the Devil himself if it means another 90 wins plucked out thin air. The All Shortstops Everywhere attack in Tampa Bay worked well at the end of the season with super-utility guy Ben Zobrist seeing the bulk of the action down the stretch there, but with Escobar in the mix the Rays can move Zobrist back to right field or second base as the situation dictates, making better use of Ryan Roberts and the myriad of other players capable of suiting up at just about every position on the diamond.
Escobar finds himself in nearly the identical situation he was in after the 2010 season. Stock way down with questions regarding his viability and attitude swirling. Escobar responded with a tremendous 2011 season in which he resumed walking at his career rate and hitting for a little bit of power in Toronto, posting a .348 wOBA and 4 fWAR.
As a shortstop, the offensive bar is set impossibly low. Even without slugging much more than .300 in 2010 and 2012, Escobar still provides nearly league-average production at shortstop. His big body might require a move to third base at some point but he remains a capable defensive shortstop for a very reasonable price. The Blue Jays signed Escobar to an incredibly friendly deal, paying him $5 Mil for 2013 with identical team options for the following two seasons.
The Rays get their man – a cheap shortstop who could end up being very good with a decently high floor. His steadying presence in the lineup allows Joe Maddon to play jazz with the rest of his movable pieces as the Rays inevitably confound their way into the playoff picture for the sixth straight year. Getting a little tiresome, if you ask me.