No deal at the Winter Meetings: Cliff Lee’s agent has left the building

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Darek Braunecker represents Cliff Lee. He’s been very busy during these Winter Meetings. No, not busy negotiating a contract, but busy telling various reporters about all the offers he’s fielding.  Really, there some reporters who won’t be able to order a drink down in the lobby tonight because they don’t know how to talk without Braunecker making their mouths move.

But that’s over now, because the buzz around here is that Braunecker has left the Dolphin Resort.  Which means that there is likely no chance of Lee signing between now and the end of the meetings tomorrow.

I’ve never negotiated anything bigger than a moderately-sized lawsuit settlement — and I tended to lose those negotiations — but I don’t get why this is so damn complicated. There are a finite number of teams in the bidding. There are no guys above Lee who need to set the market first. Everyone has cell phones. If Sotheby’s can auction off 15 Picassos in an afternoon, you’d think Braunecker could auction off Lee here.

Guess not.

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.