Ryan Braun says Brewers were “fighting the negativity” under former manager Ken Macha

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Ryan Braun talked to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about how excited he is for this season after the Brewers added Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to the rotation and changed managers, and in doing so revealed just how bad things got in the clubhouse under former manager Ken Macha:

My confidence never wavered but overall the baseball experience last year was not positive. Ultimately, I think we were all fighting the negativity and the overall situation we were dealing with. I always try to be as positive and optimistic as I can but the whole environment and atmosphere, not necessarily with the players, was negative. It felt worse than it was. It felt like we lost 100 games.

Braun then discussed how different things already feel under new manager Ron Roenicke:

It’s a thousand times different now. The whole atmosphere, the whole environment is much more positive. There’s just an aura of excitement. When you walk in here, you can literally feel the difference. We can all sense it and it’s exciting. The more positive your work environment is, the more conducive it is to accomplishing anything you can to be successful. He was really positive and optimistic and he was a great communicator. I think those things are something we all look for in a leader and a manager.

Braun stopped short of ever mentioning Macha by name, but the former manager’s people skills were repeatedly brought up as a reason for his firing. Macha later explained that Braun, Prince Fielder, and other key players didn’t reciprocate his communication attempts, saying about Braun: “I talked a lot to Ryan almost every day, but he does his own thing. He’s going to do what he wants to do.”

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.