B.J. Upton expected to sign with new team this week

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Most highly-coveted free agents will wait until the Winter Meetings (held in early December) to begin seriously considering their options. But a few pieces of the offseason puzzle typically fall into place a little early. And this year will apparently be no different.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes in his Sunday column that outfielder B.J. Upton is “looking to make a decision this week” on the multiple offers he’s been presented. The Phillies and Braves have both been aggressive in their pursuits of Upton, and the Nationals, Rangers and Giants have also been loosely linked.

Upton hit just .246 with a .298 OBP in 633 plate appearances this past season for the Rays, but he slugged 28 home runs and stole 31 bases. And that kind of power and speed will always attract great interest.

The 28-year-old from Norfolk, Virginia seems likely to land a five-year deal worth close to $75 million.

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.