Tigers, Nationals swap hard-throwing relievers

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It’s a challenge trade: the Tigers and Nationals pulled off an exchange of right-handed relievers Ryan Perry and Collin Balester on Friday.

The trade is a bit more surprising from Detroit’s point of view, but it appears that the Tigers soured on Perry as last year went along, even though he pitched better in the second half than the first. Perry, the 21st overall pick in the 2008 draft, ended the year with a 5.35 ERA and a 24/21 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. Overall, he has a 4.07 ERA and a 129/82 K/BB ratio in 161 1/3 innings as a major leaguer.

Balester is viewed more of a flop than Perry, but he also has the better raw stuff; while both tend to throw in the 93-95 mph range, Balester’s curveball is a superior offering to Perry’s slider. It shows in the strikeout numbers, as Balester has fanned 62 in 56 2/3 innings of relief over the last two years.

Balester, though, has more of a wild streak than Perry. He’s also out of options, whereas Perry still has an option year left. That definitely played a role in the Nationals’ thinking here, as they had at least five relievers ahead of Balester on the depth chart.

Personally, I’d give the edge to the Tigers. Perry’s upside appears quite limited at this point, and while he may be a better bet to give a team 65 acceptable innings than Balester, I’d take my chances with Balester fulfilling his potential one of the years. He’s only been a full-time reliever for 1 2/3 seasons now.

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.