UPDATE: Athletics acquire Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar from Rays

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UPDATE: The deal is official. The Athletics will inherit the salaries for Zobrist and Escobar and will also send cash considerations to the Rays, presumably to help pay for Jaso’s 2015 salary.

1:24 p.m. ET: FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rays will receive catcher John Jaso and prospect shortstop Daniel Robertson in the deal. Meanwhile, Keith Law of ESPN hears that prospect outfielder Boog Powell (no, not that Boog) will also be sent to Tampa Bay.

A supplemental first-round pick from 2012, Robertson is considered Oakland’s top prospect. The 20-year-old batted .310/.402/.471 with 15 homers and 60 RBI last season with High-A Stockton. Powell, who turns 22 next week, owns a .317/.412/.384 batting line with three home runs, 35 stolen bases and more walks (102) than strikeouts (96) over his first 177 games in pro ball. Jaso, who spent the first three seasons of his career with Tampa Bay, batted .264/.337/.430 with nine home runs and 40 RBI over 99 games last season before going down with post-concussion issues. The 31-year-old is expected to mostly DH with the Rays, which means that Rene Rivera will be the primary catcher.

1:08 p.m. ET: Billy Beane’s fascinating offseason continues, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics are on the verge of acquiring Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar from the Rays.

No word yet on who the Rays will get in return for Zobrist and Escobar, but Slusser hears that it is likely to be one player off the major league roster and a top prospect or two.

After shedding the likes of Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Moss, and Derek Norris this offseason, it appeared that the Athletics were going into rebuilding mode. However, Beane clearly saw it as a reshuffle more than anything else. Escobar gives the A’s another option for shortstop along with Marcus Semien while Zobrist is tailor-made for Oakland and can slot in just about anywhere. As for the Rays, they continue to strip things down. Moving Zobrist and Escobar clears the way for Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Franklin to be regulars in Tampa Bay’s middle infield, though Logan Forsythe and Hak-Ju Lee could also be in the mix.

Zobrist turns 34 in May and batted .272/.354/.395 with 10 home runs, 52 RBI, and 10 stolen bases over 146 games last season. He’s due to make $7.5 million in 2015 before hitting free agency and could be a trade chip for Oakland if they fall out of the race. Escobar, 32, took a step back defensively last year while batting .258/.324/.340 with seven home runs and 39 RBI over 137 games. He’s owed $5 million in 2015 and $7 million in 2016 while his contract includes a $7 million club option or $1 million buyout for 2017.

Rob Manfred calls Astros sign-stealing investigation “most thorough” MLB investigation ever

Associated Press
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SAN DIEGO — Commissioner Rob Manfred was asked today about the status of the investigation into the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Manfred said “I think that this is probably the most thorough investigation that the Commissioner’s office has ever undertaken.”

I would assume that construction excludes the Mitchell Report, which was undertaken by an outside party, but I guess it’s still quite a claim.

Manfred said that Major League Baseball has interviewed “nearly 60 witnesses” and has reviewed 76,000 e-mails plus a “trove of instant messages.” He said that they are not done, however, and that the review so far has, “caused us to conclude that we have to do some follow-up interviewing.” He said he cannot predict how long the investigation will take, but “it is my hope to conclude the investigation just as promptly as possible.”

Manfred was asked about the sort of discipline he and his office were contemplating but said, “at this point in the investigation it would be wholly inappropriate for me to speculate” about what discipline was in play.

The investigation comes in the wake of the November 12 report in The Athletic about the Astros’ sign-stealing operation, which allegedly involved use of center field video cameras and the relaying of pitch selection to batters. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers confirmed the scheme to The Athletic and at least three other Astros employees confirmed it as well.

In the wake of that initial report, video and audio emerged which appeared to confirm the sign-stealing and emails from an Astros executive to scouts, asking them to use cameras and/or binoculars in an effort to steal signs have been uncovered. Major League Baseball has vowed serious punishment for Astros executives, coaches and employees who were involved in orchestrating the scheme and to any players or officials who are found to be untruthful with MLB officials in the course of the investigation.

Initially, Major League Baseball said its investigation would be a wide-ranging one, including multiple teams. Soon after that, however, Manfred controversially backtracked on that, saying instead that the probe would focus only on the Astros. Which, to be sure, is the club against whom current allegations have been lodged and whom many around the game suspect to be the worst offenders. As we have noted, however, it’s highly unreasonable to assume that the Astros are alone in perpetrating a sophisticated sign-stealing operation, as their scheme was allegedly imported by a player who learned it while playing elsewhere.

Either way, it sounds like MLB has a lot on its plate with this. When we know something, you’ll know something.