Are the Blue Jays interested in Joe Blanton?

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Take from this what you will, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos scouted today’s Orioles-Phillies game. It’s possible he was just getting a look at a division rival, but Morosi notes that Anthopoulos left after Joe Blanton after was done pitching.

Morosi writes that the Blue Jays are interested in pitching and that Blanton is available in the right deal, so this has a chance of being a match on paper. If Anthopoulos was truly there to see Blanton, he probably liked what he saw. The 31-year-old right-hander allowed four hits over three shutout innings while striking out three and walking just one.

Of course, Blanton was limited to just 41 1/3 innings at the major league level last season due to an elbow injury. Even with a strong showing this spring, it’s likely the Phillies would have to eat a portion of his $8.5 million salary for this season in a potential deal.

It’s not clear what direction the Phillies would go if they end up finding a suitor for Blanton. Kyle Kendrick and Joel Pineiro are among the internal alternatives for a rotation spot, but they could target Roy Oswalt if they get some salary relief.

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.