Jordan Lyles threw a complete-game shutout against the Brewers in his final outing last season to finish 5-12 with a 5.09 ERA. Now, that doesn’t sound very impressive, but he was just 21 years old and that he was an Astro explains the win-loss record. He entered camp this year penciled in as Houston’s No. 3 starter behind Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris.
Unfortunately, Lyles’ position in the rotation is now very much in doubt. He gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning in his start against the Braves on Friday, elevating his spring ERA to 25.20. In three outings, he’s given up 20 hits and 15 runs — 14 earned — over five innings.
The Astros do have rotation alternatives, so Lyles will probably be Triple-A bound barring a massive turnaround in his next two starts. Philip Humber and Erik Bedard were the favorites for the last two rotation spots entering camp, with Alex White and John Ely next in line. They also have Edgar Gonzalez and Dallas Kuechel available as fallback options.
Count on Houston looking at any out-of-options starters placed on waivers later this month. The Blue Jays’ Brett Cecil is an obvious possibility. There are also guys like the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, the Royals’ Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen and the Rays’ Jeff Niemann available in trade talks. Rick Porcello, too, but the Astros don’t have the closer the Tigers are looking for and probably wouldn’t want to give up prospects for him.
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.