Maximum stay on Hall of Fame ballot changed from 15 to 10 years

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Big news coming out of Cooperstown this morning, as the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced their first changes to the voting process since 1991. The most significant change is that recently-retired players will only be able to stay on the ballot for 10 years as opposed to the current 15.

Three candidates in years 10-15 will be grandfathered into this system and remain eligible for the full 15 years. That group includes Don Mattingly (his 15th and final year on the ballot will be in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th year in 2015), and Lee Smith (13th year in 2015).

This change is clearly aimed at breaking up the current log jam on the ballot, but it indirectly gives players from the steroid era a much tougher time of making it into the Hall of Fame. Or at least kicks the can down the road for the veteran’s committee to figure out. One alternative to breaking up the log jam would be to allow more than 10 players to be named on a ballot, but that doesn’t appear to be a consideration at this time.

Other changes of note:

– Hall of Fame eligible voters will now be required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct. Consider this a response to Dan Le Batard, who turned his ballot over to Deadspin readers this year.

– The names of BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) voters will be made public with the election results, but individual ballot results will not be released by the Hall of Fame. Here’s hoping the BBWAA takes the next step.

Here’s part of a press release from the National Baseball Hall of Fame:

“The Board is committed to keeping the policies and voting procedures of the Hall of Fame relevant,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame – player’s record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity – to determine individuals who belong in the Hall of Fame by the highest threshold, a 75 percent majority. The Board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward.”

Before you start blaming the BBWAA for today’s changes, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle notes that the BBWAA did not have any input in the process:

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.