John Baker hoping to win roster spot even if he can’t catch

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John Baker has just recently started soft-tossing from 45 feet following September elbow surgery and likely won’t be cleared to catch again until at least May even if he avoids setbacks, but he’s still hoping to win a spot on the Marlins’ roster coming out of spring training.

He’ll be able to swing at full strength long before he’s able to do the same throwing, so Baker will try to show the Marlins that he’s capable of providing value as a pinch-hitter. When healthy Baker has a solid bat, hitting .273 with a .358 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage in 744 career plate appearances, but it may be tough for the Marlins to justify filling a roster spot with someone who can’t play defense at all.

Baker started 112 games behind the plate in 2009 and looked like the Marlins’ long-term answer at catcher before last year’s elbow injury, but this offseason Florida signed John Buck to a three-year, $18 million deal that seemingly makes him Baker’s replacement in 2011 and beyond. Where that leaves Baker, at age 30, is unclear, but he’s saying all the right things about focusing on getting healthy and being willing to fill whatever role he can while recovering.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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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.