The rebuilding Orioles always seemed likely to keep Rule 5 infielders Richie Martin and Drew Jackson on their 25-man roster, but the release of veteran infielder Alcides Escobar further cements those plans.
The former Kansas City shortstop and 2015 All-Star selection was granted his unconditional release on Wednesday after batting just .219 in 38 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League. Escobar signed a minor-league deal with Baltimore in mid-February and was viewed as an insurance policy in case Martin or Jackson — neither of whom have played above the Double-A level — were overwhelmed by spring competition.
With Escobar’s departure, Martin, 24, becomes the clear favorite to be the Opening Day shortstop and entered Wednesday batting .270 with four extra-base hits, four runs batted in, and a .747 on-base plus slugging percentage. Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Jackson has played all over the diamond and is on track to serve as a utility player and entered Wednesday’s action hitting .333 with a home run, six RBIs, and a .798 OPS.
Escobar, 32, posted a .593 OPS and was worth minus-0.7 wins above replacement in 140 games for the Royals last season.
With Wednesday’s transaction, the Orioles have 38 players remaining in major league camp.