Rangers, Blue Jays are the “front-runners” for Matt Garza

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From beat writer Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas:

Many of the same teams that have had strong interest in Chicago Cubs right-hander Matt Garza were on hand to watch his outing on Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

The Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays remain the front-runners for a trade with Chicago, according to industry sources. The Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants have also expressed strong interest in the pitcher.

Garza was not great in that start, allowing two earned runs on 10 hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings against the rival Cardinals. But he still has a shiny 3.17 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 71 total innings this season and he’s probably the best available starting pitcher on the trade market (unless the Phillies suddenly decide to shop ace left-hander Cliff Lee).

Garza, 29, is making $10.25 million this season in his final year of salary arbitration. Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune hears that he will be traded before his next turn in the Cubs’ starting rotation.

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.