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Blue Jays bringing Escobar's tenure to an end

Blue Jays bringing Escobar's tenure to an end

Blue Jays bringing Escobar's tenure to an end
TORONTO -- Yunel Escobar's tumultuous tenure in Toronto appeared to be near an end on Tuesday night when the Blue Jays agreed to include him with at least six other players in a blockbuster trade with Miami.

The veteran shortstop enjoyed one of his best seasons while with Toronto in 2011, but he will likely be remembered more for some well-documented off-field antics this past season.

Escobar was in need of a fresh start after a frustrating 2012 campaign, and he will now get his wish, while also moving closer to his offseason home near Miami.

The 30-year-old Escobar reportedly heads to the Marlins, along with catcher Jeff Mathis, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, left-hander Justin Nicolino, outfielder Jake Marisnick, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria and pitching prospect Anthony DeSclafani.

In return, the Blue Jays completely overhauled their roster by acquiring All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, right-hander Josh Johnson, lefty Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck and utility man Emilio Bonifacio.

The deal was first reported by Foxsports.com, but has yet to be made official and likely won't be announced until the players involved pass their physicals. Baseball sources told MLB.com that Johnson and Marisnick were part of the deal, while Nicolino said via Twitter that he was being traded to Miami.

Escobar originally joined the Blue Jays midway through the 2010 season in a multiplayer deal with Atlanta. He arrived with lofty expectations and was considered a major component of the franchise's future.

The Cuban native got off to a slow start with the franchise, but he began to deliver in 2011. Escobar posted a .290 average with a .369 on-base percentage while also hitting 11 homers and collecting 48 RBIs at the top of Toronto's lineup. Along the way, he earned a two-year contract extension with club options for 2014 and '15.

At the time, the future appeared bright, but all of that would come crashing down this past season. Escobar struggled at the plate, hitting just .253 in 145 games while being dropped in the order for most of the season.

The low point occurred during the middle of September, when Escobar made headlines for the wrong reasons. He wrote a homophobic slur in Spanish on his eye-black patches during a game against the Red Sox and immediately incurred backlash from the public.

Escobar received a three-game suspension from the team for his actions and was forced to take part in sensitivity training. He also teamed up with awareness groups in the Toronto area and vowed to make amends for his misdeeds.

But the slur appeared to be the final straw for Escobar in Toronto. Previous media reports suggested that Escobar also had become a distraction in the clubhouse, and while the Blue Jays were always quick to dismiss the allegations, their patience clearly was wearing thin.

Escobar reportedly will now switch places with Reyes while being able to put the controversy in his rear-view mirror. It's possible that Escobar could quickly recover some of his lost value, especially considering his team-friendly deal which will see him earn $5 million in 2013, with the two club options valued at $5 million each.

The move to Miami likely will be welcomed with open arms by Escobar. He lives in the area and should feel right at home with a lot of the club's fan base being of Cuban descent.

That might not translate to improved results on the field, but it certainly can't hurt. It will now be up to Escobar whether he eventually reaches those lofty expectations, or if inconsistent seasons become the norm.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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