A’s making another attempt at Japan’s Hisashi Iwakuma

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The A’s put up a $19 million posting fee last winter for the right to negotiate exclusively with Japanese righty Hisashi Iwakuma. The two sides failed to work out a contract, and that money was returned to Oakland after the 30-day negotiating period.

But now that Iwakuma is a free agent, Billy Beane and Co. are going to try again.

According to Joe Stiglich of the Contra Costa Times, the Athletics are “one of four teams” with interest in Iwakuma, who posted a 2.42 ERA and 90/19 K/BB ratio in 119 innings this past year for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball. He registered a 2.82 ERA and 153/36 K/BB ratio across 201 frames in 2010.

Iwakuma, a native of Tokyo, stands 6-foot-3 and is listed at 170 pounds. He’ll turn 31 years old in April.

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.