O's ink veteran Escobar, extend spring invite

SS spent last eight seasons with Royals, won Gold Glove in 2015

February 16th, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles' cloudy infield picture gained some clarity Saturday when the team signed veteran shortstop to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Escobar could earn up to $700,000 should he crack the club's Opening Day roster, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, making him exactly the kind of low-risk free agent the Orioles planned to target for months.

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Escobar, 32, profiled all winter as a fit for the rebuilding Orioles, who opened camp with a ton of questions up the middle. He immediately jumps to the top of the depth chart in front of Rule 5 Draft picks and Drew Jackson, who remain in the mix for utility roles. Bringing Escobar into the fold also allows the Orioles to keep rooted at second base.

"Alcides Escobar will add a great veteran option to the middle infield competition we have brought into this camp," Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said in a statement. "We are looking forward to having him join us here in Sarasota and enter the mix."

Originally acquired by the Royals as part of a package for in 2010, Escobar spent much of the last decade as a stalwart in Kansas City's lineup. He served as the club's everyday shortstop from 2011-2018, helping the Royals to consecutive playoff appearances and a World Series title in 2015. Escobar also earned his lone All-Star and Gold Glove recognitions that season.

More touted for his defensive abilities than for his bat, Escobar posted a .231 average and 63 OPS+ in 2018, and owns a career .258/.293/.343 slash line over 11 Major League seasons. His glovework, too, has slipped consistently as he has played into his 30s. Escobar has garnered a negative rating in Defensive Runs Saved each year since 2014, according to FanGraphs, bottoming out at -12 DRS last summer. Escobar also made cameos at third base (29 games), center field (six games) and second (three games) in 2018.

He does, though, arrive in Baltimore with a reputation as one of the game's most durable players. Escobar averaged 156 games played over his eight years in Kansas City; he is the only active player (not counting , who is effectively retired) to appear in all 162 games in at least three separate seasons.

The Orioles now have 62 players in big league camp.