We already know that when the Astros make the switch to the American League next season, it will create a more balanced schedule which will necessitate Interleague Play on a daily basis. But it sounds like more changes could be on the way.
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that MLB is working on a “scheduling reconfiguration” for 2013 and beyond which will likely eliminate “natural rivals” playing home-and-home, six-game series annually.
While the current “natural rival” concept is good for ratings and boosts attendance in some places — for instance, the Mets’ home series against the Yankees this year figure to be some of their only sellouts — I’m guessing these proposed changes won’t disappoint many fans.
Whatever novelty interesting matchups like the Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox and Athletics-Giants once had is essentially gone and we’re still forced to sit through awkward rivalries like the Padres-Mariners. This will put a stop to that, thankfully. There’s also the question of whether it’s fair for a team like the Mets to play the Yankees six times annually when some of the other teams in their division don’t play them at all.
Of course, that’s just one example of the flawed nature of the “natural rival” concept and other fans probably have similar complaints depending upon who they root for. Heck, complaints about the new format are inevitable, too. But this is a change I can live with.
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.