UPDATE: Or not. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic asked Towers via text message about the Sponichi report. He replied: “News to me!”
9:06 PM: Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers is apparently doing a lot more than talking to teams about a potential match for Justin Upton.
Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker passes along a report from Sponichi that the D-Backs are prepared to offer Japanese reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi a two-year, $3 million contract.
While Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have had to go through the posting process, the 32-year-old right-hander is a free agent and is able to sign with any MLB team.
Formerly a starting pitcher, Kobayashi moved to the bullpen this past season and posted a 2.21 ERA to go along with 29 saves and a 53/13 K/BB ratio over 61 innings. He has a 3.54 ERA over 11 professional seasons in Japan, all with the Chiba Lotte Marines. On his website NPB Tracker, Newman writes that Kobayashi “doesn’t have a power arm, but attacks the strike zone.”
The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.
Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.
While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.