Change of plans: Lucas Duda to stay in majors for now

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UPDATE: It looks like Pedro Beato’s poor performance tonight saved Duda from a demotion. Beato gave up four runs over one-third of an inning in the 10th inning tonight against the Nationals, after which he was sent to the minors.

9:30 PM: The Mets need to clear a spot on their roster for top prospect right-hander Matt Harvey, who will make his major league debut Thursday against the Diamondbacks. Many speculated that the struggling Kirk Nieuwenhuis would be the odd-man out, but Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record hears that Lucas Duda will be demoted to Triple-A Buffalo.

Duda earned a shot at the starting right field job after hitting .292 with 10 homers and an .852 OPS in 100 games last season, but he has delivered a disappointing .241/.335/.391 batting line to go along with 12 home runs, 44 RBI and a .726 OPS across 355 plate appearances in 2012. He’s hitting just .140 (6-for-43) with one homer and 16 strikeouts this month. Making matters worse, he has been one of the worst defensive outfielders in the majors.

While the Mets try to get Duda back on track in the minors, they appear ready to give more playing time to the hot-hitting Jordany Valdespin. The 24-year-old entered tonight’s action batting .299/.330/.586 with six home runs, 20 RBI, four stolen bases and a .916 OPS over his first 92 plate appearances in the majors.

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.