MLB rumors: Blue Jays add veteran utility infielder, Orioles working phones, Tigers not expecting to add bat

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Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

Spring training workouts are underway across baseball, but some pretty damn good players remain unsigned in free agency. Plus, injuries happen in spring training that might trigger trades. 

Speaking of which, the Orioles have already been struck with a rash of injuries. Let’s start there by diving into the rumors of the day. 

Orioles still working phones but expect to have pitchers back

In light of the injuries to Kyle Bradish and John Means, Orioles general manager Mike Elias said the following via MASN Sports

“We’re still looking,” Elias said. “I don’t know that I can prognosticate any additions. There’s obviously still people out there. We’re remaining on the phones. I do want to be clear that we’re expecting both of those guys back, so I don’t want to go crazy ringing the alarm bells there. But even if we had all of our guys perfectly healthy right at this moment, I would not be expecting them to stay perfectly healthy all season long, so you do have as much pitching depth as we can.”

Elias recently struck on the trade market to add 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes. If Bradish and Means make quick recoveries, as it sounds like they expect, the Orioles’ rotation will be strong. It’s always possible they swing another deal (Dylan Cease?), though, with all that minor-league depth.

Blue Jays add veteran utility infielder

Eduardo Escobar signed a minor league deal with an invite to spring training with the Blue Jays, the team announced. Escobar, 35, split his 2023 season between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels. In total, he appeared in 99 games, slashing .226/.269/.344 with six home runs, good enough for a 67 OPS+. For his career, Escobar owns a .253/.305/.430 line over 13 MLB seasons. 

Tigers not looking to add a new bat

The Tigers finished second in the AL Central last year and the weak division seems pretty wide open. Some offensive players on the free agency market — perhaps a reunion with J.D. Martinez? — would help what appears to be a lackluster offense. Still, Tigers president Scott Harris said (via Detroit Free Press) that he doesn’t want to add another bat from outside the organization because that would block a youngster. 

“We have a young hitter either in the big leagues or pretty close to the big leagues at almost every position,” Harris said. “We have to commit to those guys. There aren’t a ton of at-bats available for another everyday-type bat. We felt like there was room for one in Mark Canha, and then the rest of the additions would be sort of supplementary to the everyday lineup.”

The Tigers’ everyday lineup is set to include Parker Meadows (age 24), Riley Greene (23), Spencer Torkelson (24), Colt Keith (22), and there’s some playing time available for Akil Baddoo (25). Kerry Carpenter (26) is an option as an everyday designated hitter. Mark Canha, as Harris mentioned, was the veteran addition in the offseason while 31-year-old Javier Báez remains as the shortstop.

Moreno won’t sell, Angels likely to go on ‘lower budget’ 

Angels owner Arte Moreno said, in an interview with the OC Register, that he isn’t planning on selling the Angels any time soon (unless someone offered something “really stupid”). In the near term, Moreno said the club plans to operate with a lower budget than in previous years. 

This isn’t necessarily a call to skimp on player payroll, as the Angels have been huge spenders in recent years. Their opening-day payroll last season was roughly $212 million and the final figure for competitive balance tax purposes was nearly $233 million. The latter figure, right now, looks to be around $188 million this year (all salary numbers via Cot’s Contracts). 

The Angels were 73-89 last season and lost Shohei Ohtani in free agency. Two incredibly high-priced stars remain, however, in Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. They combined to play in just 125 games last season. If they could get close to full seasons from both, that would help mitigate some of the Ohtani loss on offense. Plus, the bullpen was a big issue last year and the Angels have added five relievers in free agency. 

Still, 2024 figures to be an uphill battle. 

Merrifield decision expected soon

Free agent Whit Merrifield is expected to sign with his new team by the end of this coming weekend, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network

Merrifield, 35, hit .272/.318/.382 (94 OPS+) with 27 doubles, 11 homers, 67 RBI, 66 runs, 26 steals and 0.7 WAR in 145 games for the Blue Jays last season. He split time between second base and right field while also seeing parts of six games in right field.

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