Cubs manager Dale Sveum told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune Sunday in camp that right-hander Jeff Samardzija is a “near lock” for a spot in the team’s regular-season starting rotation.
Samardzija finally found major league success last year in the Chicago bullpen, posting a 2.97 ERA and tallying 87 strikeouts in 88 innings of work. He was especially sharp after the All-Star break, and the Cubs’ decision-makers will hope that he can ride that momentum into positive results in his new gig.
Samardzija was drafted as a starter out of Notre Dame and served mostly as a starter in the minor leagues, so the transition isn’t going to be a complete adventure. But the 27-year-old former wide receiver has walked 100 batters in 169 2/3 career major-league innings, and it’s safe to wonder whether those control issues will haunt him.
For what it’s worth, Samardzija hasn’t walked a single batter this spring in three Cactus League starts.
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.