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.