UPDATE: Marc Carig of New York Newsday reports that the Mets have also discussed Saunders as an option to replace R.A. Dickey. However, it’s not clear whether they have spoken with his agent or if they are willing to go to multiple years in order to sign him.
10:01 AM: We heard earlier this week that the Orioles were in talks to bring back left-hander Joe Saunders, but they are going to have to fend off some competition.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Saunders is also talking to the Mariners and Padres. The Pirates were involved at one point, but they are likely out after reaching a two-year, $12.75 million contract with left-hander Francisco Liriano yesterday.
Saunders, 31, had a 4.07 ERA and 112/39 K/BB ratio in 174 2/3 innings this past season between the Diamondbacks and Orioles. With a 4.15 ERA over eight seasons in the majors, his numbers compare favorably to Joe Blanton, who recently agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels.
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.