SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles made a move this afternoon that intensified the shortstop and utility competition.
Alcides Escobar agreed to terms on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training as the first full-squad workout unfolds on Monday. He can earn $700,000 if playing for the Orioles.
The rebuild doesn’t preclude executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias from bringing a 32-year-old infielder into the fold.
“Alcides Escobar will add a great veteran option to the middle infield competition we have brought into this camp,” Elias said in a statement. “We are looking forward to having him join us here in Sarasota and enter the mix.”
As it turns out, the spring roster wasn’t set.
Durability and versatility are attractive features with Escobar, who spent the past eight seasons with the Royals and batted .231/.279/.313 last summer in 140 games. He’s appeared in 162 games in three of the last five years and made his only All-Star team in 2015.
Signed by the Brewers as an amateur free agent in 2003, Escobar is a career .258/.293/.343 hitter in 11 major league seasons. He posted a career-low -0.7 WAR last summer, according to baseball-reference.com.
The former Gold Glove Award winner’s defensive reputation took a hit in 2018 with a -0.6 dWar, and FanGraphs.com had him at -12 defensive runs saved (DRS), also the lowest total of his career.
Manager Brandon Hyde could start Escobar at shortstop, keeping Jonathan Villar at second base. Another option is using Escobar in a utility role after he made 104 starts at shortstop last season, 27 at third base, two at second base and six in center field.
Escobar also has played left and right field in the majors, which comes in handy if Hyde goes with a three-man bench.
The camp roster includes Rule 5 infielders Richie Martin and Drew Jackson, Steve Wilkerson, Hanser Alberto, Chris Bostick, Jace Peterson, Zach Vincej and Jack Reinheimer - the latter clearing waivers on Thursday, outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk and receiving a camp invite.
Escobar went 5-for-18 with a double and home run against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series. He won his only Gold Glove and a World Series ring the following season.