Mariners reliever Chris Ray is brewing beer for charity

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Mariners reliever Chris Ray was at the Fremont Brewing Company yesterday, helping brew a beer called Homefront IPA that will be sold at Safeco Field and around Seattle to raise money for the Operation Homefront organization that provides emergency financial assistance to the families of military personnel.

Kendall Jones of Washington Beer Blog wrote a good article about tagging along with Ray, who has been brewing his own beer at home since back in the minor leagues and plans to open a brewery in Virginia with his brother someday:

Talking with Chris, you immediately recognize that he’s serious about beer. He talks about the rhizomes they chose to grow their hops and the first year’s hop harvest. Albeit tight-lipped, he tells me about the company that is potentially going to build the brewhouse. We discuss Virginia’s archaic liquor laws and the obstacles those laws create for a small brewery. It is clear that he is very serious about opening a brewery. He’s not just some guy who likes IPA.

Ray told Jones that he sometimes brings his home brewed beer into the Mariners’ clubhouse, but “it’s pretty hard converting light beer drinkers.” For shame, Mariners. For shame.

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.