It is no secret that the Tampa Bay Rays have not had a permanent shortstop since 2010 when All-Star Jason Bartlett played for the Rays. In the past two seasons, the Rays have had trouble finding someone to replace Bartlett. Several players, including Ben Zobrist, Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriquez, have spent time as shortstop, but in December 2012, it was announced that the Rays traded a minor league player to the Miami Marlins for short stop Yunel Escobar. Escobar had spent the past two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to the Marlins in November. He would only be there for two weeks before expressing his unwillingness to play at third base and with the Marlin’s slashing their payrolls, he was traded in exchange for infielder Derek Dietrich. Dietrich was MVP of Class-A Charlotte, batting .282 and is expected to play as a third baseman in the Marlin’s system. Escobar is earning $5 million for the 2013 season and the Rays have a $5 million options for 2014 and 2015. At the moment it seems as though the Rays got the better end of the deal.
Escobar spent four years with the Atlanta Braves and two with the Blue Jays – his experience with the Jays should help the Rays when the Rays play them throughout the season. Escobar is a .282 hitter, but only batted .253 in 2012 (could be contributed to switching between short stop and second baseman). A change of scenery and a friendly clubhouse could possibly motivate him and increase his batting numbers since the Rays need to have a permanent shortstop that can provide offense. Besides offense, defense is also very important to the Rays, especially after a 2012 season filled with errors. Escobar ranks fifth among shortstops in runs saved since 2010. The Rays pride themselves on being a defensive team so Escobar should fit right in.
The only incident associated with Escobar is that in September 2012, he was wearing eye black that said “tu ere maricon” which loosely translates into “you are a faggot.” He was suspended for three days, went to sensitivity training, and his lost salary was donated to You Can Play and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “I agree with the suspension. I don’t have any problem with that,” said Escobar. Escobar explained how he doesn’t have anything against homosexuals and that his meant to make fun of the other team, not offend homosexuals. “I think he definitely learned a lesson from the eye-black incident,” Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. This incident should not be a problem with the Rays since Escobar was punished and learned his lesson. If Friedman doesn’t believe it’s a problem, then neither should the Rays fans. The Rays are known for giving players a second chance and being a friendly environment so I’m expecting Escobar to be able to improve the Rays’ shortstop position.