AL All-Star balloting update: Jose Bautista joins the leaders

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The latest American League ballot totals are in and the red-hot Jose Bautista has moved into third place in the outfielder voting, with Nelson Cruz dropping out of the lineup to fifth place.

Bautista had the AL’s highest vote total last year, but his slow start guarantees he won’t duplicate that feat this year. Instead, it looks like Josh Hamilton will take the title.

CATCHER
Mike Napoli, Rangers: 2,239,047
Joe Mauer, Twins: 1,283,804
Matt Wieters, Orioles: 1,242,247

FIRST BASE
Prince Fielder, Tigers: 1,946,045
Paul Konerko, White Sox: 1,680,793
Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 1,405,187

SECOND BASE
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 2,580,306
Robinson Cano, Yankees: 2,565,046
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 1,331,657

THIRD BASE
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 2,251,304
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 1,869,727
Evan Longoria, Rays: 1,442,308

SHORTSTOP
Derek Jeter, Yankees: 3,359,875
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 2,008,678
J.J. Hardy, Orioles: 968,963

OUTFIELD
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 5,414,880
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 2,818,535
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 1,996,940
Adam Jones, Orioles: 1,959,207
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 1,944,487
David Murphy, Rangers: 1,229,190
Nick Swisher, Yankees: 1,177,500
Jeff Francoeur, Royals: 823,568
Brett Gardner, Yankees: 818,164

DESIGNATED HITTER
David Ortiz, Red Sox: 2,390,132
Michael Young, Rangers: 1,892,150
Raul Ibanez, Yankees: 1,080,421

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.