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.

Didi Gregorius will wear a mask during games

Gregorius will wear a mask
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Didi Gregorius will wear a mask during games this year. That’s what the Phillies infielder tells the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“We are trying to go through the guidelines and trying to do everything we can do to stay safe, so, that’s why people see me walking around with a mask on and stuff. I am keeping myself safe, wearing a mask everywhere I go. So, I have to keep it on me all the time.”

Gregorius will wear a mask both while batting and out in the field, he said.

A big reason for it is that he has a chronic kidney condition which makes him “high risk” under Major League Baseball’s safety protocols. He could opt out if he wanted to but Gregorius, who signed a $14 million deal with the Phillies last winter, is a free agent again this coming offseason. He is coming off of a down year in 2019, having hit .238/.276/.441 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI across 344 plate appearances. Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2018 and didn’t make his 2019 season debut until June 7. A big reason he took a one-year deal was to reestablish his value for next season’s go-around on the free agent market and he doesn’t want the long layoff going into what could be his last significant payday.

Major League Baseball is not requiring players or umpires to wear masks on the field during games or practices, though it is reportedly looking into clear face shields for home plate umpires to wear under their usual protective masks.

Gregorius will wear a mask to keep himself safe, he said, but he also notes in the article that “I think it adds safety for everybody, for me and people around me.” Here’s hoping, given his vulnerability, everyone around him is being as safe as he is.