The Miami Marlins, desperate to rid themselves of shortstop Yunel Escobar and his $5M salary, have dealt him to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for prospect Derek Dietrich in what looks like a steal of a deal for the Rays.
Yunel Escobar is coming off of his worst offensive season with a career worst 75 wRC+ and .300 on-base percentage. His career marks coming into the 2012 season were 109 wRC+ and a .366 OBP. In fact, from 2007-2011 Escobar had the seventh highest fWAR total among shortstops.
Escobar’s stock dropped for a few reasons. He has character issues that are a concern and when a team shows how desperate it is to deal a player his value drops. Andrew Friedman and company swooped in at the right time to land Escobar.
Escobar is still an above-average defender at shortstop, posting a career best +4.6 UZR last season and marking his fifth straight season of at least a +1.6 UZR.
Escobar’s problems with the bat last season can be pointed to an outlier 5.8% walk rate which is far below the career mark of 9.6% he owned coming into the 2012 season. The Rays are a team that preaches patience and I have little doubts Escobar forgot that part of his game.
Escobar was also very unlucky at the plate posting a .273 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) which is significantly below his career mark of .314 coming into the 2012 season. The loss in BABIP can only be summed up as bad luck as his line-drive rate was exactly his career mark of 18.7% and his infield flies were slightly lower than his career average. His .624/.624/.776 line on line-drives was 33% lower than the league average.
The Rays were heading into the season with Ben Zobrist being the likely starter at short and they desperately needed to find someone to replace Jeff Keppinger. This move allows them to move Zobrist back to 2B/RF and Ryan Roberts can be the 3B/2B guy while possibly adding 1B to his resume.
The Rays were also left with a major void of contact hitters with Keppinger leaving via free agency and Escobar and his career 11% strikeout rate are much needed in their lineup.
Escobar is only 30 years old and only makes a guaranteed $5M with club options of $5M in 2014 and 2015. He only has to be worth just over 1.0 fWAR to justify his salary but with a little positive regression he could easily be a 3-4 fWAR player he was from 2007-2011.
And if Escobar comes back near his career marks and is around a three-win player, the Rays, if they feel Hak-Ju Lee is ready to be their everyday shortstop, can trade Escobar while his value is up. And if Escobar keeps heading downwards they can trade him for spare parts or simply decline his options. This is an easy win for the Rays who could come out looking like geniuses once again.
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | Andrew Friedman, Ben Zobrist, Derek Dietrich, Hak-Ju Lee, Jeff Keppinger, Miami Marlins, MLB Winter Meetings, Prospects, Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays, Trades, Yunel Escobar