Things are getting weird between the Mets and Johan Santana.
Santana has yet to make his spring debut because he is still in the process of building strength in his shoulder. The Mets were caught off guard that the veteran southpaw wasn’t in pitching shape upon reporting to camp, which is all the more curious considering that he wanted to pitch for his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson went public with his disappointment last weekend, which resulted in Santana reportedly irking the team by throwing unscheduled from a mound just one day later.
While Santana has scaled back his throwing program in recent days, making a trip to the disabled list inevitable, it’s clear that he is not over how the situation was handled.
Santana is a competitor, so it’s not surprising to learn that he’s still peeved by the perception that he showed up to spring training out of shape. The Mets have every reason to be frustrated if he wasn’t where they thought he’d be when spring training began, but perhaps Alderson should have recognized the possibility that Santana would take his comments personally and divert from the plan. Who knows what was said behind closed doors, but this appears to be a failure of communication on both sides. Of course, if Santana comes back at some point in April and pitches well, this drama will all be forgotten.
Santana, 33, is owed $25 million this season while his $25 million club option for next season includes a $5.5 million buyout.
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.