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Former Orioles infielder Hanser Alberto signs minor league deal with Royals

Former Orioles infielder Hanser Alberto has signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals, the team announced Sunday.

Alberto had played the second most games for the Orioles since executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde took over in the 2018 offseason but wasn’t tendered a contract ahead of December’s arbitration deadline. The 28-year-old was due a steep salary increase in his second year of salary arbitration.

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Alberto broke out for the Orioles in 2019 after an offseason in which he bounced around the waiver wire and finally settled back with the Orioles, who had already gotten rid of him once before he returned in spring training.

His success was driven by dominance of left-handed pitching. Alberto batted .398 with a .948 OPS against opposite-side pitching as he became the Orioles’ primary second baseman in 2019. He hit .305 overall that year and .283 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season to give him a .299 average with a .735 OPS in two seasons with the Orioles.

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His .321 average in 2020 ranks sixth in the American League, and he’s tied for second in the league in hits.

“Just such a special guy,” Hyde said in September. “Loved in our clubhouse, like he was loved in Texas’ clubhouse and loved by his family, and you can see why, because he’s just a character. He’s just an awesome character with great personality. Loves to play the game and it shows. That’s why fans love him, because he plays the game like a kid, and he’s the same way in the clubhouse, also. He’s an easy coach’s favorite, and he’s an easy guy to love.”

In December, Elias said it was “an incredibly difficult decision” not to tender Alberto a contract, while leaving open the possibility of a return.

“On and off the field, he’s been so good,” said Elias, who cited the constraints of the arbitration system, which dictate how much a player can make in salary based on past comparable players, as a reason he wasn’t tendered a contract. “To have a waiver wire pick-up turn into a top of the order hitter and a starting second baseman, that’s uncommon.”

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Alberto was also the club’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable efforts both in his native Dominican Republic and in Baltimore during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alberto’s replacement seems to be waiver claim Yolmer Sánchez, who has a Gold Glove on his resume at second base and will be making $1 million this year. The Orioles, who also parted ways with Renato Núñez and traded shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels for a pair of pitching prospects, signed veteran infielder Freddy Galvis to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last week.

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