In July, Major League Baseball hired former player Billy Bean as the first Ambassador for Inclusion. His job: to work with major and minor league clubs to encourage equal opportunity in accordance with the joint MLB-MLBPA Workplace Code of Conduct, which itself was designed to make baseball more welcoming and inclusive of the LGBT community and to help put an end to sexism, homophobia and prejudice within the world of baseball.
“Ambassador of Inclusion” is not the most conventional title. Indeed, it’s one which, if you’re wearing your cynical cap, you might take as some sort of tokenism. A “Look! We hired a gay former player! Can’t get on our case!” kind of thing.
As Ken Rosenthal reports today, however, it wasn’t that at all. Rosenthal writes about how Major League Baseball came to the conclusion that it needed to be proactive in this arena and that hiring Billy Bean was the right guy for the job. It’s a good read, and I heartily recommend it.
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.