Earlier this offseason there was some talk about the Orioles possibly moving Jim Johnson into the rotation, but he now seems destined to remain in the bullpen and Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com expects Johnson to be the Opening Day closer.
That could still change if the Orioles acquire a veteran closer, but they whiffed on Huston Street and haven’t been linked to many free agents, leaving Johnson as the obvious in-house option after he converted seven straight save chances in September.
Johnson logged 91 innings in a setup role last season, so moving to closer might actually make him slightly less valuable for the Orioles if they limit him to the role’s usual 60-70 innings.
Another option is Kevin Gregg, who has plenty of closing experience and 144 career saves, but he was a mess in 2011 while saving 22 games and has long been a prime example of save totals being a misleading indicator of reliever ability.
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.