UPDATE: Langosch notes that Vazquez wasn’t actually released, just designated for assignment. The Pirates now have 10 days to find a trade partner for him or grant him his release. He can also accept an assignment to Triple-A Indianapolis.
2:33pm: Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (and MLB.com’s Jen Langosch confirms) that the Pirates have released infielder Ramon Vazquez.
The 33-year-old strung together an ugly .176/.243/.176 batting line in 34 at-bats this spring with zero extra-base hits and seven strikeouts. He was thought to be in line for a utility infield spot this season, but the Bucs have opted to fill their bench with guys like outfielder John Raynor, and infielders Delwyn Young and Bobby Crosby.
Vazquez is a .254 career hitter with a 678 OPS and will have a difficult time finding a spot on a big league roster with Opening Night just hours away.
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.