Pirates release veteran right-hander Jose Contreras

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This could be the end of the road for Jose Contreras. The 41-year-old right-hander was released by the Pirates this afternoon in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Charlie Morton, who is making his return from Tommy John surgery today against the Giants.

Contreras underwent Tommy John surgery last year and signed a minor league deal with the Pirates over the winter. After making seven appearances in the minors, he joined Pittsburgh’s bullpen in early May and allowed five runs on seven hits and six walks over five innings prior to landing on the disabled list with lower back inflammation three weeks later. Now the Pirates have decided to turn the page.

Signed out of Cuba by the Yankees in 2002, Contreras owns a 4.57 ERA over 175 starts and 124 relief appearances in the majors. He enjoyed the bulk of his success as a starting pitcher with the White Sox from 2004-2009, including 15 wins and a 3.61 ERA during when the team won the World Series in 2005. He made his lone All-Star appearance in 2006.

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.