Álvarez has agreed to terms on a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, according to a source. No word on whether he’s reporting today, but the club is setting up a locker for him in the main clubhouse.
This is the third year in a row that the Orioles have signed Álvarez, the last two on minor league deals. However, today marks the first time that they reached an agreement before March.
Álvarez, who turned 31 earlier this month, received a September call-up last year and batted .313/.353/.438 with one home run in 14 games. He hit .239/.294/.442 with 31 doubles, 26 home runs and 89 RBIs in 138 games at Triple-A Norfolk.
With Mark Trumbo projected to receive most of his at-bats as the designated hitter, Álvarez will be challenged to break camp with the team unless an injury creates an opening for him. He’s viewed again as insurance for the club.
The Orioles are attempting to balance out a roster that leans heavily to the right and Álvarez could provide another solution. They’ve also signed outfielders Colby Rasmus and Alex Presley to minor league contracts.
The latest deal for Álvarez likely includes another opt-out clause. Álvarez had several last year and didn’t exercise them.
The outfield experiment won’t be repeated. The Orioles will use Álvarez at first base and as the designated hitter in camp.
Álvarez batted .249/.322/.504 with 20 doubles, 22 home runs and 49 RBIs in 109 games in 2016 after signing a one-year deal that guaranteed $5.75 million and include a possible $1.5 million in incentives.
The Orioles have 63 players in camp and are waiting to find out whether they’re keeping outfielder Jaycob Brugman, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday.
Pitcher Mike Wright Jr. switched uniform numbers from 28 to 24 after the Orioles signed Rasmus. Álvarez has worn 24 with the Orioles. Wright shouldn’t get attached to it.
The list of Orioles free agents is down to four following Álvarez’s agreement: pitchers Ubaldo Jiménez and Jeremy Hellickson, shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielder Seth Smith.