The Baltimore Orioles have added yet another infielder to the mix.
Apparently, the Baltimore Orioles spring training roster wasn’t finalized after all. As reported Saturday afternoon, the Orioles have signed former Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Escobar will make $700,000 if he secures a spot on the active roster, per Jon Heyman.
This move is a head scratcher. Baltimore entered the offseason with Jonathan Villar and Steve Wilkerson on the roster, later claimed Hanser Alberto off waivers from the New York Yankees and Jack Reinheimer from the Texas Rangers, and selected Richie Martin and Drew Jackson in this year’s Rule 5 draft.
The crowded middle infield mix becomes a bit more crowded with the addition of the 32-year-old former Gold Glove winner Escobar, who beat writers have already tabbed as the frontrunner for the starting shortstop position.
He may be durable (140+ games in each of the past nine seasons, including hitting the 162 mark three times) and versatile, having played shortstop, second base, third, and centerfield with the Royals last year, but his offense brings very little to the table.
In 140 games for the Royals in 2018, Escobar hit a career-low .231 and reached base at a dismal .279 mark. He recorded just 29 extra-base hits (22 doubles, three triples, four home runs), his lowest since 2015 and he failed to swipe double-digit bags for the second-straight season, after seven-straight seasons of 10 or more stolen bases (158 total).
Escobar hasn’t finished with a wRC+ above 70 since his 2014 season. Remember, 100 is league average. His past three seasons have ended with a fWAR of 0.5, 0.2, and -0.3, pointing to an 11-year veteran who is strictly league-average or below across the board.
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I know many fans of the Kansas City Royals have fond memories of Alcides Escobar and he has put up some impressive numbers at times during his career, however, with young players like Richie Martin already on the roster, I’m not the biggest fan of this move.
Leadership, durability, experience, and versatility are all great buzzwords and may accurately describe the veteran, but if the Baltimore Orioles are going to lose 100 games again, I rather watch them do it with a combination of Martin/Jackson at the position.
Per STEAMER projections, both Richie Martin and Drew Jackson project better overall numbers than Escobar (not by much), who projects only slightly better than Jack Reinheimer, who the Orioles just recently claimed, designated for assignment, and then sent to AAA with a spring invite.
At the end of the day, this is a minor league signing to bring in more competition at a weak position. We are supposed to trust Mike Elias, right? While I may not agree or think much of this move, I’m going to trust there were plenty of good reasons for it happening. What do you think, Orioles fans? Let us hear your takes!