SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles got a little older Saturday with the free-agent signing of veteran infielder Alcides Escobar, who agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training.
Escobar, 32, is not exactly the type of fringe player that typically signs a minor league contract in February. He’s a former All-Star and Gold Glove shortstop who gives the Orioles experience and additional middle-infield depth.
“Alcides Escobar will add a great veteran option to the middle-infield competition we have brought into this camp,’’ executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said in a statement. “We look forward to having him join us here in Sarasota and enter the mix.”
Escobar owns a .258 career batting average and has been a durable player over 11 seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals. He played all 162 games in three of the past five seasons and averaged 154 games over the nine seasons since he became a full-time major league player.
Last season, Escobar batted .231/.279/.313 with 29 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs while playing four positions — shortstop, third base, center field and second base — in 140 games.
That marked a bit of a dropoff for the glove-first infielder who had averaged 34 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs with a .644 OPS from 2014 to 2017. Escobar also finished as a sub-replacement-level player in 2018, with -0.3 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs, after finishing with a positive figure in each of his first 10 seasons.
How Escobar will fit into Elias’ rebuilding plan remains to be determined, but he he joins a roster that features only one middle infielder with significant major league experience, Jonathan Villar. If Escobar were to make the club out of spring training as a starter, he likely would play shortstop and Villar would play second base.