Neither player was expected to crack the Opening Day roster and today the Cubs made it official, optioning top prospects Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson to Triple-A.
Rizzo was acquired from the Padres for Andrew Cashner in January and is the Cubs’ long-term answer at first base, but the team made it pretty clear that they wanted him to get a little more seasoning in the minors while giving Bryan LaHair a chance to play regularly in Chicago.
Jackson simply didn’t have an obvious role in the Cubs’ outfield with Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus, and Alfonso Soriano set as the starters and Reed Johnson as the primary backup. He’s also just 23 years old and has struggled to make consistent contact in the minors, although 64 strikeouts in 48 games at Triple-A last season didn’t stop Jackson from hitting .297 with a .939 OPS.
Jackson and Rizzo are both top-100 prospects and both figure to be in Chicago at some point this year.
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.