Royals agree to long-term contract with Alcides Escobar

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Alcides Escobar and the Royals have agreed to a four-year contract that includes team options for 2016 and 2017, the team announced.

Escobar is just 25 years old and not even eligible for arbitration yet after being acquired from the Brewers in the Zack Greinke trade last offseason, so the four-year contract simply buys out his arbitration seasons and the team options potentially cover his first two years of free agency.

According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star the contract is worth $10.5 million in guaranteed money and as much as $21.75 million if both option years are exercised.

From the Royals’ point of view it’s certainly a gamble at this point, as Escobar has yet to show he can actually hit big-league pitching. He batted just .254 with a .290 on-base percentage and .343 slugging percentage in 158 games last season, and that .633 OPS was better than he produced for the Brewers in 2010.

He’s certainly capable of more offensively, but Escobar’s lack of power or plate discipline figure to hold him back. Of course, his defense and speed are plenty valuable and the Royals are obviously hoping that he can at least develop into a .275 hitter who isn’t a huge weakness at the bottom of the lineup.

Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.