Carlos Zambrano will participate in the Venezuelan winter league in an effort to catch up on all the pitching he missed while suspended by the Cubs, with Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reporting that he’s scheduled to make nine starts for Los Caribes de Anzoategui.
Zambrano’s last game action came way back on August 12, but he’s slated to throw a simulated game tomorrow in preparation for his first start Sunday.
New team president Theo Epstein has said that he wants to meet with Zambrano to discuss his Cubs future, so by making regular starts in Venezuela the 31-year-old right-hander is basically auditioning for a possible trade. Zambrano is owed $18 million in the final season of a five-year, $91.5 million contract and has the ability to block any move.
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.