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The Rays are reportedly pursuing Marlins' shortstop Yunel Escobar, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. The Marlins have seemingly been trying to get rid of Escobar ever since acquiring him from the Blue Jays in last month's fire sale.
It's been written before, but Escobar would be a great fit in Tampa Bay. He had a down 2012 season (.284 wOBA, 1.8 WAR), but has been an above average player since breaking into the big leagues. Over the past five seasons he ranks seventh among all shortstops in WAR. No matter how you feel about his off the field issues you can't argue that he wouldn't be an upgrade for the team. If he produced ~3+ WAR next season he could write "F**k You Erik H" on his eye black for all I care.
Escobar playing full time at shortstop allows Ben Zobrist to shift back into a more permanent outfield role, sliding back into right field with Matt Joyce moving to left and Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld platooning as needed. Zobrist could also give Ryan Roberts a break at second base if they're facing a particularly tough right handed starter. The salary figures for Escobar are also locked in -- $5m this season with two $5m club options in '14 and '15 -- making him even more attractive to the Rays. The A's are also interested in Escobar, with Susan Slusser reporting they're in ongoing discussions with the Marlins.
In other Rays news, Joe Maddon spoke with reporters today on a variety of topics. The recap of quotes can be found here, via the Tampa Bay Times.
-It's unlikely MLB will have expanded replay rules in place by Opening Day, reports Jayson Stark. Bug Selig said they'd have expanded rules "for sure" for next season, but in typical MLB fashion hasn't been able to make a decision.
-Justin Ruggiano "has this", everyone.
-Zach Levine asks the question, could we see a blank HOF ballot in 2013? Hopefully not.
-There are nearly as many Hall of Fame members from pre-1900 as there are from the 1970's and 80's. That's a major flaw in the HOF voting system as ESPN's David Schoenfield writes.