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Rays Trade Rumors: Yunel Escobar

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Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Yunel Escobar fired his agent and sought out a contract extension with Andrew Friedman because he loved playing under Joe Maddon. Both of those elements are now gone, so it's possible Escobar could be targeted in a trade.

Escobar is valuable to the Rays because he traditionally plays with superior defense, and has a bat that currently plays to the major league average - a plus for a short stop - and could possibly tap into some power if everything clicks right. That contract extension is also a plus, he's owed just $5M in 2015, and $7M in 2016 with a $7M option the following year.

But if he's valuable to the Rays, he's valuable to other clubs as well. The Rays are expected to be active in the Winter Meetings, and it wouldn't be too surprising if Yunel Escobar is the first player's name to rise to the surface in trade rumors.

Should he be dealt, Escobar's removal from the roster would not be entirely painful. He could be functionally replaced by Nick Frankin or Logan Forsythe, or maybe even 33-year old Ben Zobrist. The first two, acquired in 2014, will be riding rookie contracts in a possible platoon role unless one can pull ahead of the other, and the Rays would likely try to keep their youth on the left side of the infield, and allow Zobrist to continue to showcase his defense at second.

Keeping Zobrist out of the outfield is not an issue of quality, but more so one of practicality. The Rays are looking to trade outfielders, so solidifying Zobrist into an infield role only helps shape the season to come. That said, don't be shocked if Zorilla still finds 300 innings in the outfield.

Now is the time for the Rays to sort out what they have in the middle of the infield between Logan Forsythe, Nick FranklinRyan BrettHak-Ju Lee, and Tim Beckham.

Additionally, the market for a shortstop trade is stronger than ever.

The Dodgers, Mets, Giants, and Athletics are all publicly looking for help at short, while the Cubs, White Sox, and Phillies have theirs for sale. The Rays could preempt the market by finding an appropriate deal ahead of the sellers, or before other teams with minor league depth (like the Red Sox) get aggressive on the market, or Korean free-agent Jung-Ho Kang gets posted for bidding.

It's worth mentioning the Rays went through the routine procedure of putting Escobar on revocable trade waivers last August and the Athletics claimed him. It then followed that the Rays at least explored a deal, but it's believed asked Maddon if his name could be withdrawn, preferring to remain with the Rays over joining the playoff contending A's.

As we mentioned, the Rays environment has changed, so perhaps a deal could still be completed after all. I'm sure the A's would love that contract as well.