The Orioles are in the lead in the “Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes”

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When trade talks or free agent talks start people always act like it’s a race or a contest in which everyone is competing on some open and level field. One team is gaining, one is behind, another is coming up from the outside. Bah, save it for the Belmont Stakes. Real trade and free agent discussions have as much to do with opportunity and timing than anything else. Most big moves come together rather swiftly. It’s less horse racing and more UFC, in which one solid punch can knock the other guys out.

Which leads us to Jeff Samardzija, who is no doubt the biggest name on the trading block this season. Teams always want pitching, even in this pitcher-friendly era, and Samardzija is a surer bet than a lot of guys to put in some good service time as a rent-an-ace. To that end, Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com reports that the Orioles “appear to be the leading team of interest in the Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes.”

Which makes sense, as the O’s could use big league ready pitching and happen to have a handful of pitching prospects the Cubs might like, such as Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey and Eduardo Rodriguez.

So a trade could happen. But when it happens, it won’t feature a mad dash from the quarter pole to the finish. It’ll just happen.

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.