David Ortiz became the 49th player in big-league history to reach 400 homers when he took Oakland’s A.J. Griffin deep in the fourth inning Wednesday.
It was Ortiz’s 22nd homer of 2012, putting him into a tie for fifth place in the American League. The 36-year-old will be the AL’s starting DH in next week’s All-Star Game.
Ortiz’s Hall of Fame chances appeared next to nil a couple of years ago, but his big resurgence has put him back into the discussion. He has a chance at 500 career homers, and he turned in an outstanding five-year peak from 2003-07 in which he finished in the top-five in the AL MVP balloting every year. He also helped lead the Red Sox to World Series championships in that span.
Of course, there is the steroid taint, even if the only thing that ties him to it is that a couple of lawyers reportedly said his name was on the “anonymous list” of players testing positive in 2003.
Regardless, Ortiz is on pace for a historic season. He’s on pace to become the fifth different player in major league history to hit at least .300 with 40 homers and 100 RBI at 36 or older. Babe Ruth did it twice, Hank Aaron once, Andres Galarraga twice and Barry Bonds three times.
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.