While other teams carefully peruse the free agent tree, trying to decide what fruit they can afford to pick, the Orioles have decided to go into the stables and muck out the stalls in hopes of finding some relievers. The team reached an agreement with former Rockies relief pitcher Edgmer Escalona on Wednesday. The signing was first reported by MASN's Roch Kubatko.
The Escalona signing follows on the heels of Monday's contract with career minor leaguer Kelvin de la Cruz. If this is what the O's official who said the team was "shuffling the deck" had in mind, it's not an exciting shuffling of cards. On the other hand, it does create some competition. Those who do not make the roster can be traded or jettisoned. Escalona, like de la Cruz, is out of options and would have to go through waivers to be sent down to the minors.
Colorado signed the 27-year-old Escalona out of Venezuela in 2004, probably because he was a live arm but maybe also because he has an awesome name. He made his MLB debut in 2010, appearing in five games, all in relief, and has gone on to pitch 100 innings in 78 games over the past four seasons. He has a career 4.50 ERA. In 2013, he pitched 46 innings and had a 5.67 ERA.
You might be tempted to think that perhaps Escalona just needs to get out of Coors Field, but he had a worse ERA on the road than he did at home this past season, allowing more home runs away (five) than at home (three). What's his problem? Who knows? The Orioles seem to think it's worth a flier to try to fix him.
Fangraphs gives him a 94.2 mph average on his fastball, which he threw 70% of the time this past season. He also throws a slider. Escalona struck out about a batter per inning in most of his stops in the minor leagues, including both years he spent significant time at Triple-A. His walk rate is not astounding, but it's also not awful. Home runs have been a problem, but not the only problem.
Terms of the contract were not immediately disclosed, but it's unlikely there would be a significant expenditure on Escalona. The Orioles can give him a shot in spring training. If he's good enough to make the team, then they'll have a difficult choice to make about who he pushes out. If he's not good enough, they can cut him loose with little money invested in him.