And the award for the worst player in baseball goes to …

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I wrote earlier this week about how Mike Trout is blowing away the competition in terms of Wins Above Replacement this season and is the first position player to reach double-digit WAR since Barry Bonds in 2004.

There’s a flip side to that coin, of course. It’s tough to identify the worst player in baseball because technically the worst player is probably some guy with zero hits in three at-bats or some pitcher with a 15.00 ERA in two appearances. They’re so bad that they don’t get any further opportunities.

The worst player in baseball who actually plays regularly is a different, more interesting story and I thought it would be a good time examine the lowest Wins Above Replacement totals this season via Baseball-Reference.com:

                      PA      WAR
Jeff Francoeur       528     -3.2
Michael Young        575     -2.6
Joe Mather           220     -2.2
Ryan Raburn          222     -2.0
Ramon Hernandez      196     -1.7
Ty Wigginton         338     -1.7

Wouldn’t you know it, a couple of longtime HBT “favorites” top the list. (And yes, those are negative numbers.)

Jeff Francoeur has followed up a strong 2011 season that got him a $13.5 million contract extension from the Royals by hitting .233 with a .286 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage in 129 games. According to WAR he’s been 3.2 wins worse than a replacement-level corner outfielder, which is pretty tough to do. For comparison, he had a WAR of +2.7 last season.

Michael Young has followed up a strong 2011 season in which he hilariously received a first-place MVP vote from a Dallas writer by hitting .269 with a .299 on-base percentage, .359 slugging percentage, and 23 double plays in 137 games. According to WAR he’s been 2.6 wins worse than a replacement-level DH/first baseman/infielder. Not only did Young have a WAR of +2.1 last season, he posted a positive WAR total in each of his first 11 seasons.

Both players have been terrible and unlike most of the other guys with negative WAR totals Francoeur and Young have played basically every day for the entire season. In fact, among the 30 players with the lowest WAR totals this season only Francoeur and Young have logged more than 480 plate appearances.

If you’re looking for the worst player in baseball this season Francoeur and Young are the most obvious candidates and right now at least my vote would go to Frenchy. Also: Francoeur is signed for $6.75 million next year and Young is under contract for $16 million.

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.