Last spring Matt Thornton signed a two-year, $12 million extension that hasn’t started yet, but Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that the White Sox “are trying to move” the longtime setup man.
Thornton got off to a bad start this year, blowing whatever chance he had of becoming the White Sox’s permanent closer, but recovered nicely and ended up with his usual outstanding numbers: 60 innings, 3.32 ERA, 63/21 K/BB ratio.
He’s posted a sub-3.50 ERA in four straight seasons while striking out 10.7 batters per nine innings, yet Olney says the White Sox have been shopping him since July without finding a deal. That suggests either teams are scared off by Thornton being 35 years old or Chicago’s asking price it too high for a reliever owed $12 million even if he’s been an elite setup man.
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.