Mariners activate Michael Saunders, send Jesus Montero back to Triple-A

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Jesus Montero’s latest stint in the big leagues was a short one, as the Mariners have demoted the one-time top prospect back to Triple-A to make room for outfielder Michael Saunders’ return from the disabled list.

Saunders missed three weeks with a strained shoulder and comes back after going 9-for-20 during a brief minor-league rehab assignment at Triple-A. He’ll resume playing regularly in the Mariners’ outfield after hitting .265 with four homers and a .741 OPS in 52 games before the injury, more or less matching his production from the past two seasons.

Montero got just 14 at-bats during this latest call-up and wasn’t especially impressive at Triple-A, so his status in the Mariners’ long-term plans is definitely shaky at age 24. Billed as one of the elite hitting prospects around while in the Yankees’ farm system, he’s hit just .252 with 19 homers and a .672 OPS in 169 games for the Mariners since coming over in a deal for Michael Pineda.

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.