Wizards

Marlins trade Yunel Escobar across state to Rays

201212050011007007660-p2.jpeg

Marlins trade Yunel Escobar across state to Rays

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Yunel Escobar's stay with the Miami Marlins lasted all of two weeks.

The payroll-slashing Marlins dealt the shortstop and his $5 million salary across Florida to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night for minor league infielder Derek Dietrich.

Escobar's departure drops the Marlins' projected opening-day payroll to a major league-low $38 million, which includes $4.5 million owed Toronto next year, $1.5 million due to Arizona in 2013 as part of the Heath Bell trade and $1 million to account for a prorated share of Bell's signing bonus.

Combined with the Toronto trade, the Marlins have pared $151.5 million in payroll from their books in recent weeks, just two months after finishing their first season in a new ballpark built with taxpayer money.

Right-hander Ricky Nolasco, the team's highest-paid remaining player with a salary of $11.5 million next year, would prefer to be traded, too, agent Matt Sosnick said Monday.

``We'll take a little timeout on the trade front,'' said Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, who promised the payroll savings will be reinvested.

Acquired in the 12-player trade that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to Toronto on Nov. 19, the 30-year-old Escobar batted .253 last season with nine homers and 51 RBIs.

He is a .282 career hitter in six major league seasons with 53 homers and 298 RBIs for Atlanta (2007-10) and Toronto (2010-12). Escobar was suspended for three games in September for wearing eye black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game against Boston.

``I think he definitely learned a lesson from the eye-black incident,'' Rays executive vice president for baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. ``I think it had a real impact on him and that he feels remorse about it. And the digging that we did - we believe that it was an isolated incident and that nothing of that nature will be a concern going forward, or we wouldn't have acquired him.''

Beinfest said that when the Marlins obtained Escobar, he said he was willing to move to third base. Adeiny Hechavarria, also acquired from the Blue Jays, is slated for shortstop.

``He had a change of heart,'' Beinfest said.

Escobar's contract includes $5 million options for 2014 and 2015. His acquisition allows Ben Zobrist to serve in a utility role.

``We believe that he's going to fit in really well in our clubhouse,'' Friedman said. ``It sounds like he's extremely happy about being here, being a Ray, and he knows he's going to be welcomed into our clubhouse. But yeah, I think it's safe to say we did a lot of work on it, talked to a lot of people and felt comfortable that it's a calculated risk on a good player that we feel like can help us and fit in really well in our environment.''

The 23-year-old Dietrich, a second-round draft pick in 2010, was selected MVP of Class-A Charlotte this year, batting .282 with a team-high 10 homers and 58 RBIs. He was promoted to Double-A Montgomery on July 28 and finished with a combined .279 average with 14 homers and 75 RBIs.

---

AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.

Quick Links

Wizards GM reset: Blazers' Neil Olshey, Warriors exec potential targets?

ted-leonsis-wizards.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards GM reset: Blazers' Neil Olshey, Warriors exec potential targets?

The Washington Wizards remain without a President of Basketball Operations since firing Ernie Grunfeld April 2. While several candidates met with owner Ted Leonsis, including Denver’s Tim Connelly, the pursuit continues though largely in silence.

The vibe coming out of the organization is that of patience even with the fan base growing restless as the June 20 NBA Draft looms and prospect workouts starting a week or so out.

There have been no reports of candidate interviews since Washington met over the weekend with Connelly. Speculation and logic have the Wizards considering candidates beyond the previously reported group already brought in for interviews.

We can connect some dots and land on one executive whose team is still in the playoffs: Golden State assistant general manager Larry Harris.

As for the rumor mill, one name stands out: Neil Olshey.

Numerous sources told NBC Sports Washington of the Wizards’ interest in Blazers President of Basketball Operations, the architect behind the Portland squad that reached the 2019 Western Conference Finals.

Before we explain both scenarios, one more thought on Connelly specifically the pursuit and big swing.

While Connelly wasn’t the first candidate meeting, it’s clear the Wizards waited for him. The 54-win Nuggets were eliminated from the second round of the playoffs May 12. Connelly flew to Washington for a meeting with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis five days later.

The Baltimore native sincerely weighed a contract offer from the Wizards before choosing to remain in Denver, sources told NBC Sports Washington.

The Wizards previously interviewed former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver and Wizards interim front office leader Tommy Sheppard.

While all three are considered credible candidates, none is an active GM or team president. None represents a big swing, the kind Leonsis hinted he would pursue in his first comments after dismissing Grunfeld.

“One thing I will say: I think this is the best job in sports,” Leonsis said. “I don’t think we’re going to have any issues in attracting really, really great people.”

Olshey, 54, began running Portland’s front office in June of 2012. Over the next 12 months, he drafted guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and hired head coach Terry Stotts. The quartet created the culture that fueled the current streak of six consecutive playoff appearances.

The 53-win Blazers advanced to the franchise’s first WCF appearance since 2000 before losing the series to Golden State 4-0.

It's uncertain the level of pursuit for Olshey from Washington, but the Wizards could face another uphill climb trying to lure the proven executive considering the similar contractual and team success to Connelly's situation. 

The general interest in Olshey began several weeks back, but the Wizards had yet to ask the Blazers for permission to interview Olshey as of Wednesday according to a source. Portland's season ended Monday with the Game 4 loss to Golden State. 

Olshey agreed to an extension in 2017 that carries his contract through the 2020-21 season. Sources believe he is open to considering other options including Washington after seven years with the Blazers.

Reporting from Portland has the franchise likely to be sold following the 2018 passing of team owner Paul Allen. 

Lillard received All-NBA honors Thursday and with it a supermax extension for four-years, $191 million dollars. If offered and signed, the contract would put constraints on Portland's salary cap structure.

As for Harris, the former Bucks GM joined the Warriors in 2008 as an assistant coach before eventually moving into the front office. He was named assistant GM in 2016.

ESPN reported Harris interviewed for the Pelicans opening in April before the NBA Playoffs began.

Note the familiar names. Gersson Rosas, who subsequently became the Timberwolves President, also interviewed with the Wizards.

The connection with the Wizards and Pelicans is Mike Forde, an outside consultant who helped both teams during their respective searches.

It’s no leap imagining Forde pushing the Wizards to meet with an executive who just spent the past five years in the NBA Finals (The Bucks never finished above .500 in five seasons with Harris, however). Waiting could mean until after Game 4 of the NBA Finals (June 7). Going the full seven games means June 16.

Another front office headliner still in the postseason is Toronto’s Masai Ujiri. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. Expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement, according to a source.

For now, Sheppard runs the show. He led the Wizards’ contingent at last week’s NBA Combine in Chicago. As for Ferry or Weaver, as of Wednesday it was considered unlikely either heard from Washington since the organization ramped up the pursuit of Connelly or learned of the Denver executive's decision, according to sources familiar with the situation.

 For now, all anyone on the outside can do is wait patiently just like the organization and see which name bubbles up next.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

'I started to realize that I’m not broken': Steve Smith opens up about mental health and depression

steve_smith_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports images

'I started to realize that I’m not broken': Steve Smith opens up about mental health and depression

Former Carolina Panthers' star receiver Steve Smith spoke in front of a crowd of over 400 people at the fifth annual Wake up for Wellness breakfast that was sponsored by Mental Health America of Central Carolinas.

The 16-year veteran and current NFL Network analyst touched on the importance of seeking help for bouts with depression and spoke of battles that he has faced with the disease.

“On the outside you’ll see a tough exterior. But on the inside, I’m just broken or I believe even more broken than the average man. ... Because when the stadium goes dark and the cheers stop, you’re still looking for that pat on the back,” Smith said. “Throughout my whole career, I struggled with that.”

Smith discussed that in the beginning, he was so concerned about the stigma regarding mental health, that he opted for the professional to meet him for housecalls, and as time passed he realized the importance of speaking up.

“I started to realize that I’m not broken,” he said. “I’m not being sent back to the manufacturer ... I get up every morning and figure it out.”

Smith's comments on the issue came to light just a day after the NFL and NFLPA announced new legislation that focuses on mental well being.

The newly formed Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee will develop programs for members of the NFL in addition to collaborating with local and national mental health and suicide prevention organizations. Each team will be mandated to retain a Behavioral Health Team Clinician for assistance that will be required to be available to players at the individual team facilities for at least 8-12 hours per week and must conduct mandatory mental health education sessions for players and coaching staff.

MORE RAVENS NEWS