If my math is correct, Mike Elias signed 23 minor league free agents from the time he was first announced as the General Manager of the Orioles on November 16, 2018 and the first game of the season, March 28, 2019. By the way, he only signed one major league free agent this past offseason, Nate Karns, and we all know how that worked out.
None of the players mentioned below ended up being keepers. They were either spring training attendees or received some time on the major league roster during the regular season. And unfortunately, only several of the 23 total minor league signees were able to be included here. Let’s start with two of the more notable players in this group, in terms of MLB playing time this year.
Remember Jesus Sucre? He was signed near the beginning of February and played 20 games with the O’s. The veteran backstop did not do much with the bat (.210/.269/.242), but he quickly became a fan favorite for his theatrics behind the plate. The Birds designated Sucre for assignment on April 28 and he was outrighted to Norfolk two days later. He hit .283/.333/.364 in 50 games with the Tides but did not play after August 2, when he was placed on the restricted list.
There’s been a lot of paperwork for Jace Peterson and the O’s in the past year or so, seeing how he was outrighted late last year, elected free agency and then ultimately resigned with Baltimore on a minor league deal. Then he exercised an out clause in his contract this past July while with the Tides, was granted his release, then signed a new minor league contract.
The Orioles got some run out of Peterson between his promotion on July 25 and his designation for assignment on September 3. In 29 games he appeared at four different positions: second base, third base, left field and right field. But he only managed a .599 OPS in 100 at-bats.
Right-handed reliever Josh Lucas was not a solution for the Orioles’ beleaguered bullpen. He signed with the club November 28 of last year and threw 23.2 innings in Triple-A with the Tides, putting up a 6.85 ERA, 1.73 WHIP with 4.6 BB/9, 7.2 SO/9 and 1.58 SO/W. He also appeared in nine games out of the bullpen for Baltimore, compiling a 5.74 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 2.29 SO/W. The Birds released him on August 19 and he signed with the Nationals shortly thereafter.
Shortstop Alcides Escobar’s tenure with the Orioles was quite short-lived. In fact, it ended before spring training was even over. He signed February 16 and was released March 21. Escobar, a career .258/.293/.343 hitter more known for his glove, was unable to supplant Rule 5 pick Richie Martin or any other infielder for that matter in the early going. Escobar signed on the with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights in the White Sox system and hit .286/.343/.444 with 10 home runs and 70 RBIs before his release on August 2.
This year, Oriole shortstops are collectively hitting .240/.298/.374.
Outfielder Eric Young Jr. was another minor league signee who didn’t make it out of spring training. Lauded for his outgoing personality, ability to connect with younger players and his speed, Young was cut on March 21 and signed a minor league deal with the Mariners. In 127 at-bats in the Pacific Coast League, he put up a .658 OPS and stole three bases. After joining the Acereros del Norte of the Mexican League in late July, he has hit for a .836 OPS with five steals in 111 at-bats.
But wait a minute, where’s the proverbial diamond in the rough from a group like this? There is none.
As minor league free agent signees, the aforementioned list of players come with a serious cap on their upside. That’s not to say someone can’t bloom late, but that is not the likely outcome in these cases, not by a long shot.
In addition, none of the listed players were prospects anymore. That’s why they were available as minor league free agents in the first place. Here are their ages: Young Jr., 34; Escobar, 32; Sucre, 31; Peterson, 29; Lucas, 28.
As we all know, there are plenty of other ways to build a team. Like through the draft for example, which seems to be the emphasis with Elias and Sig and company nowadays. But as you can tell from the collection of players above, those guys were just brought in to fill out a roster, plain and simple.
All statistics provided by Baseball Reference, MLB and MiLB.