Pirates’ starting catcher Chris Snyder to have back surgery

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UPDATE: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that Snyder needs surgery and may be lost for the season.

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Coming into the season the Pirates had so much catching depth that they were desperately trying to trade Ryan Doumit rather than use him as a part-time outfielder, but now Doumit is on the disabled list with an ankle injury and starting catcher Chris Snyder has joined him on the shelf.

Snyder, who began the season on the DL with a lower back injury, is sidelined again by the same problem, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

To make matters worse, would-be call-up Jason Jaramillo is on the DL at Triple-A with an elbow injury, which leaves minor-league veterans Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas to split time behind the plate in Pittsburgh for now.

Former first-round pick Tony Sanchez is the Pirates’ long-term answer at catcher, but he’s just 23 years old and not exactly dominating at Double-A with a .725 OPS in 46 games. Langosch writes that “Sanchez is not coming up … he isn’t even moving to Triple-A.” She speculates that the Pirates could claim Jake Fox off waivers after he was designated for assignment by the Orioles last week, but there are plenty of questions about how useful he can be as a catcher defensively.

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.