[Update] Rays have now officially announced the deal.
[Update] Marc Topkin is now reporting that is a done deal.
[Earlier] Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com is reporting (via Twitter) that the Rays are close to completing a trade with the Marlins for shortstop Yunel Escobar. In exchange, the Marlins would acquire minor leaguer Derek Dietrich.
Escobar is a plus-defender who hit .253 with 9 home runs, 5 stolen bases, a .300 OBP (.284 wOBA) for the Blue Jays this past season. He was recently acquired by the Marlins as part of their infamous firesale trade which sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson (and two others) to the Blue Jays. His best seasons offensively came in 2007-09 with the Braves when he hit .301 with a very strong .375 OBP.
Escobar may be best known for an incident this past season in which a Blue Jays fan took a photo of Escobar and later noticed that his eyeblack had gay slur written on them. He was suspended three games for the incident.
This move should not come as a surprise. Escobar fits the mold of Rays middle infielders and the type of player they like to acquire. He is a good defender and while he has struggled offensively in the last couple of years, he has shown a good ability to get on base in the past.
He also comes at a reasonable cost with little risk. his contract is essentially a one-year deal for $5 million in 2013. The Rays would also have $5 million options for 2014 and 2015 if they decide he is worth keeping beyond the upcoming season.