Per a team release, the Orioles have signed shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.
Escobar, 32, finally fell out of favor in Kansas City, where from 2015-18 his .251/.284/.336 (64 wRC+) line was the worst among all qualified regulars in the majors. Still, the 2015 All-Star has been remarkably durable throughout his big-league career, appearing in at least 140 games in each of the last nine seasons, and should at least offer defensive stability to a hazy Baltimore infield picture.
Escobar arrived to much fanfare in Kansas City after the 2010 trade that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. He flashed his defensive chops early, posting 10 DRS and a 9.6 UZR rating in his first full season with the Royals, though his grounder-heavy bat was a harbinger of outs to come. After a slight lift-off the next season, Escobar again cratered offensively (a cringe-worthy 49 wRC+) in 2013 before leading a late-season charge to the pennant the following year. That 3.5 fWAR campaign would prove to be the shortstop’s high-water mark: discipline issues – a 4.1% career walk rate – sent the once-leadoff man to back-of-the-order rehab, from which he’d emerge only sporadically.
His long-heralded defense, too, has been anything but, according to the advanced metrics. DRS has rated Escobar below-league-average at the position in six of the last seven seasons, pegging him at a career-low -12 in 2018. UZR finally severed its sort-of attachment in 2016, but has never considered the former top 100 prospect a top-of-the-scale defender at the position.
Still, Escobar probably holds the inside track to the Oriole shortstop job in 2019. His competitors – Richie Martin, Drew Jackson, and maybe Jonathan Villar, who seems a better fit at second – haven’t much asserted themselves in recent years, and none are a sure bet to handle the rigors of the position on the regular.