Orioles may trade Matt Wieters or J.J. Hardy to create payroll flexibility

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With their eyes on the horizon, the Orioles are open to the possibility of trading catcher Matt Wieters or shortstop J.J. Hardy to create payroll flexibility, reports Steve Melewski of MASN. The O’s have some interesting situations to address in the near future including extending Chris Davis (a free agent after 2015) and buying out Manny Machado’s upcoming arbitration years (2016-18).

Wieters is arbitration-eligible for his second of three years, meaning he’ll be a free agent after the 2015 season. MLB Trade Rumors projects a $7.9 million salary for Wieters which will only climb next year, then will set the benchmark for the average annual value of a contract extension. It makes sense that the Orioles, who opened the 2013 season with a $92 million payroll, would explore a trade. Though Wieters has not lived up to the (perhaps unfair) hype that surrounded him as he made his way up through the Orioles’ farm system, he has been consistently reliable at a premium position.

On the other hand, Hardy is 31 years old and a free agent after the 2014 season. While he has been superb for the Orioles, he doesn’t factor in as a long-term piece, so making him available is standard fare. According to Baseball Reference, the only shortstops more valuable than Hardy since 2011 have been Elvis Andrus and Troy Tulowitzki, going by Wins Above Replacement.

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.