Theo Epstein and Ryan Dempster stir up trade speculation with public chat

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There was an odd scene at Wrigley Field yesterday as Cubs president Theo Epstein and right-hander Ryan Dempster had a one-on-one chat while sitting in the stands during batting practice.

Dempster was in uniform and by choosing to have their conversation in public with multiple reporters looking on they had to know that it would create tons of speculation about the Cubs trading the 35-year-old impending free agent.

Dempster revealed only that they “discussed a lot of things and obviously there are a lot of things being talked about … we talked about being on the same page and trying to do what is best for our team.”

However, according to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago the conversation was indeed about potential trades. And because Dempster has the right to block any move as a 10-and-5 player presumably Epstein was laying out various scenarios to gauge his willingness to pitch for other teams.

Terrible run support has kept Dempster from an impressive win-loss record, but he’s started 11 games with a 2.31 ERA and 63/20 K/BB ratio in 74 innings. While perhaps not quite a No. 1 starter Dempster has had a sub-4.00 ERA in four of the past five seasons and would no doubt generate plenty of interest from contenders leading up to July 31.

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.