After acquiring Escobar in their mega-deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Miami Marlins did not hold onto to Yunel Escobar for long. Just a little over two weeks later, the Marlins traded him to their in-state rival Tampa Bay Rays for infield prospect Derek Dietrich. Who won the trade? That’s not a question that can be answered very quickly and only time will tell. But so far, the winner has been the Marlins by a wide margin.
After he finished the 2012 season at the Rays’ Double-A Montgomery affiliate, the Marlins decided to begin Dietrich back at Double-A with the Jacksonville Suns. Dietrich has proceeded to play very impressively, and not in a way that anyone would have expected. Since the Rays selected Dietrich in the second round of the 2010 MLB Draft, Dietrich developed a penchant for being a middle infield prospect with very good power but little speed and plate discipline. Overall, he managed a .278/.342/.470 line with 28 doubles, 6 triples, and 15 home runs per 500 plate appearances, stealing just 11 of 23 bases and managing only a 284-81 strikeout to walk ratio. He began as a shortstop but sub-par range caused the Rays to move him to second base last season. Dietrich was a prospect with talent, but the major questions were going to be whether he could improve his plate discipline enough to hit and hit for power at high levels, especially at second base, where his offense would be important. This season, though, Dietrich has made major progress. Dietrich has managed a .284/.418/.446 line with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 1 homer, 9 RBI, 2 of 2 stolen bases, and most impressively, a 17-12 strikeout to walk ratio in 91 plate appearances. He hasn’t hit for much power at the beginning of the year, but his uptick in patience has been huge and makes his future look much brighter. There is a catch–he had a 2-8 strikeout to walk ratio in a 5-game stretch and just 15-4 in his other 15–but at the same time, he has definitely made progress and we will have to see whether it persists. In sharp contrast to Escobar, Dietrich is known as a passionate player and vocal leader, and maybe the Marlins told him that he had to be more patient at the plate and he worked immediately to make that happen.
The games that have taken place so far in 2012 are a very small sample size. Just because Escobar has gotten off to a rough start and Dietrich has played well doesn’t mean that he’s going to have a great season. Yunel Escobar has shown in the past that he has the ability to be a well above-average big league shortstop both offensively in defensively while Dietrich has done nothing in the major leagues and is still working to establish him at Double-A. It’s certainly not time to panic yet. But this Escobar trade was a unique one in the annals of Rays history as it’s one of the few we they traded a real, legitimate prospect for a major league player, and it’s up in the air whether it will turn out to be the right move.