The 30-year old Cuban short stop is one year removed from a 4.2 WAR season with the Blue Jays, and has accumulated 18.7 WAR in six seasons.
Last season was Escobar's first with a BABIP below .280, during which he batted .253/.300/.344 in 608 plate appearances for Toronto. This offensive lapse is attributed to taking a more aggressive approach in 2012. The previous season he produced a slash line of .290/.369/.413 with a 117 wRC+. His career averages a 331 wOBA, 103 wRC+, and .306 BABIP.
Escobar is signed to a one year contract for $5 million next season, with options for $5 million in 2014 and 2015 and with no buy-outs. It's an understatement to call this a great value for Tampa Bay.
Three attractive aspects to Escobar: He is an excellent defender with a strong arm, owns a career average 11.0 K%, and has stellar contact rates. All three characteristics are not much unlike recent Rays signee James Loney, and profile well for the previous success of Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton (re: Crawford, Kotchman, Keppinger).
The Rays will reportedly be sending Derek Dietrich to Miami, a AA-level prospect at shortstop, currently transitioning to second or third base. Dietrich is a second-round pick from 2010 out of Georgia Tech and was labeled the 15th to 17th best prospect in house before last season. He saw a dip in power during his 2012 campaign, but could prove to be a productive infielder for Miami in a few years.
Escobar was one of two major league ready shortstops traded to the Marlins in the Fire Sale of 2012, with the other being Adeiny Hechavarria. Escobar was a prime change-of-scenery candidate after his infamous three-game ban in September, which he received for displaying an offensive slur on his eye-black during a game. This, and a general despondent playing attitude, has given Escobar a bad reputation. Perhaps a move to Tampa Bay will do some good.
The acquisition of Escobar will give Ben Zobrist the opportunity to return to second base or right field, depending on how to off-season procedes.
Roger Mooney reports an announcement is forthcoming from the Rays.