Bryce Harper has been fighting it. Since the All-Star break he’s hitting .176 with two homers, 26 strikeouts and 15 walks in 116 plate appearances. He’s also getting frustrated, as Adam Kilgore reports, and will be getting a day off to clear his head:
In the Nationals’ 4-3 victory over the Astros on Wednesday, Harper extended his second-half skid by going 0 for 3 with two walks. He twice argued with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez after controversial calls. In the ninth inning, Harper made an ill-advised throw, trying in vain to throw out the tying run at third base while the winning run moved into scoring position. That convinced Johnson that Harper required a break.
To be fair, no one’s arguments with Angel Hernandez should form the basis of any negative judgment given that Hernandez is arguably the most awful umpire around. The called strike three against Harper in the fourth inning was clearly a ball. Both strike two and strike three during his sixth inning strikeout were balls too. Angel’s gonna Angel. It’s a clown strike zone, bro.
But like dog poop in a public park, you gotta learn how to deal with the Angel Hernandezs of the world, and Harper is clearly frustrated at the moment. A day off could do him some good.
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.