Lance Berkman is looking at going back to school

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Lance Berkman said late last month that he’s leaning towards retirement because of his knee problems. In an interview with FOX 26 on Thursday, he elaborated on that possibility, saying that if he does retire, he plans to return to Rice University to get his degree and serve as a student assistant for the baseball team.

Berkman has already reached out to Owls baseball coach Wayne Graham about the possibility:

“We make our home in Houston,” Berkman said. “I went to Rice. The program did a lot of for me. I would love to do something for the program.

All of those things make it sort of a no-brainer on my end. I’m just happy Coach Graham feels like that I would be enough of an asset to come in and try to help that team win. And really in a lot of ways it’s more exciting that trying to continue my own baseball career.”

Berkman is just 36 and he was one of the National League’s best players a year ago, so it’d be a shame to see him go so soon. However, he doesn’t appear interested in serving as a DH in the American League and he’s not sure he wants to put his body through another year as an NL regular. He’s played in just 30 games this season and hit .263 with two homers in 80 at-bats.

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.