Peter Gammons tweets that Jesse Crain “may be the hottest reliever” on the market after Joaquin Benoit signed with the Tigers, reporting that the Rays, Rockies, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Orioles, Cubs, Nationals, and Blue Jays are “already in” the bidding for the 29-year-old right-hander.
Crain was offered arbitration by the Twins, but as a Type B free agent he doesn’t require forfeiting a draft pick to sign and could be viewed by some teams as a closer option after seven seasons setting up Joe Nathan in Minnesota.
Crain has said previously that he’d be interested in re-signing with the Twins, but indicated that the chance to close somewhere would take precedence over any offers to continue setting up and is very well-positioned to hit the open market.
He’s still on the right side of 30, has a 3.42 career ERA and mid-90s fastball velocity to match, is coming off his most impressive season, and was nearly unhittable with a 1.42 ERA, .170 opponents’ batting average, and 42/20 K/BB ratio in his final 45 appearances (before serving up a homer to Mark Teixeira in the playoffs).
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.