The Cardinals have lost Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and John Gast in the past few weeks to arm injuries, and they’re having to take drastic measures to fill all of those rotation openings.
This next move might be the most drastic of all.
According to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, right-hander Michael Wacha — the 18th overall pick in last June’s MLB Amateur Draft — is no longer listed as the scheduled starting pitcher Sunday at Triple-A Memphis and might join the Cardinals this week.
Wacha has a stellar 1.71 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 74/19 K/BB ratio in 73 2/3 minor league innings since signing with St. Louis out of Texas A&M University. The tall 21-year-old opened the 2013 season at Triple-A Memphis after wowing the Cardinals’ decision-makers this spring in the Grapefruit League.
Kevin Gausman, another first-round pick (fourth overall) from last year’s draft, just joined the starting rotation in Baltimore. So it’s not an unprecedented jump. The Cardinals, though, would have probably preferred to keep Wacha down in the minors for at least another month for arbitration clock and developmental purposes.
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.