Before making the trade with the Miami Marlins in December for Yunel Escobar, Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made two important phone calls. One was to Jose Molina, the other to Joel Peralta.
Could they help Escobar find his way in the Rays clubhouse? Could they do their best to ensure Escobar's distractive habits wouldn't surface in Tampa Bay? Could they provide Escobar with the support needed to help him reach his potential as a shortstop?
Molina and Peralta both responded with the same answer: Absolutely.
So Friedman sent minor league infielder Derek Dietrich to the Marlins for Escobar, who gives the Rays something they desperately need – a major league shortstop with above-average skills who can also add some life to the offense.
"We did a lot of work on Yunel and think he's going to fit in really well and have a tremendous season," Friedman said. "Any time a guy has a little bit of a history there's a little bit of a risk element to it. We just feel like the upside far outweighs the downside."
Escobar wore out his welcome in Atlanta and Toronto. His flamboyant style of play often grates on opponents and irritates teammates. He's been seen as lazy. Staying focused can be an issue. Some see Escobar as being selfish, that he plays for himself rather than the team.
The biggest mark against Escobar was the three-game suspension he received last season for writing anti-gay words on his eye-black.
The Blue Jays sent him to the Marlins in November as part of the blockbuster trade between the two teams. The Marlins quickly flipped him to the Rays.
Escobar was asked Sunday about the end of his days in Toronto. Molina, who acted as the translator during the interview session, quickly cut off the question.
Tampa Bay Rays believe Escobar worth the risk
Tampa Tribune | Feb 18