Dale Sveum would be “surprised” if Matt Garza returns this season

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It’s beginning to look more and more likely that Matt Garza will begin next season as a member of the Cubs.

Garza is still in shut-down mode due to a stress reaction in his right elbow. While he’s still hopeful of returning this year, David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com notes that Cubs manager Dale Sveum expressed some skepticism during an appearance on WGN Radio in Chicago this afternoon.

“To be honest with you, I’d be surprised if he pitches again this season. We all want him back but when the rehab is done and right now we have 48 or 49 games left and he works his butt off but’s going to be tough. Is it possible sometime this year? Sure, but I would be surprised if he pitches again this season,” Sveum said.

Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports that Sveum backtracked a bit upon arriving to Wrigley Field this afternoon, but he still conceded that a lot of things will have to go right for Garza to return this season.

“We don’t know that,” Sveum said. “It’s going to be very — I don’t want to say really unlikely he’ll be back — but it’ll probably take a lot of hard work and for some things to happen in the healing process to get back because you’re going to run out of time, basically to rehab. … It’ll be kind of tough, but some guys heal quicker than others.”

The Cubs reportedly shopped Garza leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but assuming he doesn’t pitch again this season, teams will likely want him to prove his health next year before talking about a possible deal. The 28-year-old right-hander is making $9.5 million this season and is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter.

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.