A word about spring training games

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spring training stretch.jpgAs people who’ve been reading my stuff for a while know, I have this little habit of waking up really early in the morning during the baseball season, reading all of the box scores and game stories and riffing on the previous night’s games in a little feature called “And That Happened.” It’s fun. People seem to like it. Most of all, I like it, because I have a ball writing it and the process of doing it every day is the single most important part of me keeping plugged in to what’s going on in baseball.

But since I get asked this every March, let me make one thing clear now: there will be no “And That Happened” for the spring training games that began yesterday and start in earnest today. Yes, it’s baseball, but it’s a decidedly different beast than the game we know and love. Things happen in spring training like, say, a team benching all of its regulars at the last minute because it rained three hours earlier. Veterans don’t make road trips very often and play golf while their teammates sweat. Pitchers go two or three innings max until at least the end of the month. What happens in those games may be interesting, but the games as a whole are not meaningful. They’re certainly not the sort of thing that makes a guy want to dig down and analyze the heck out of a box score, ya know?

We’ll certainly be keeping you up to date on what happens in spring training games — see Matthew’s rundown of yesterday’s game, for example — but the first ATH will come on Monday, April 5th with a wrapup the previous night’s Yankees-Red Sox game.

And that’s just over a month away, my friends. 

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.