Drew Storen Rumors

Rosenthal On Felix, Upton, Rangers, Nationals

The Mariners continue discussing an extension with Felix Hernandez, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The sides aren’t close to a deal, and are now “dancing.” However, Seattle is at least considering a four-year, $100MM offer, according to Rosenthal. It’s not clear if the Mariners have offered a nine-figure deal to Hernandez, whose current contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. The 26-year-old Octagon client would presumably want a longer commitment, as Rosenthal points out. Here are more of Rosenthal’s notes from around MLB…

  • The Mariners’ willingness to add veterans approaching free agency suggests GM Jack Zduriencik senses an urgency to win now in the view of some rival executives.
  • Justin Upton won’t be traded for Chase Headley, an official from one of the teams involved told Rosenthal. Headley is two years away from free agency, however, and Rosenthal suggests that the Padres figure to move him eventually. Upton, another trade candidate, is under contract through 2015.
  • The Diamondbacks and Rangers haven’t revived Upton-centered trade talks since the Mariners’ failed attempt at acquiring the 25-year-old right fielder. Rosenthal reports that the sides agreed to “move on.” When the teams were last in contact the Rangers offered a four-played package led by Mike Olt that would have included shortstop prospect Leury Garcia and either Martin Perez or Cody Buckel plus a fourth prospect.
  • The Rangers continue pondering one significant move. They are viewed as possible destinations for Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn, and could also pursue relief help. The Rangers discussed right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard with the Nationals earlier this offseason, Rosenthal reports.
  • The Nationals could trade Clippard or Drew Storen now that they’ve signed Rafael Soriano. One rival executive suggested Washington could sign Lohse, but Rosenthal writes that a deal with free agent right-hander Javier Vazquez seems more likely.

Nationals Avoid Arbitration With Drew Storen

The Nationals have avoided arbitration with Drew Storen by reaching agreement on a one-year, $2.5MM contract, according to his representatives at CAA Sports (on Twitter).  The contract also includes $1MM in performance bonuses.

Storen, 25, was eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter thanks to his Super Two status.  The former tenth-overall pick of the 2009 draft posted a 2.37 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 37 appearances last season.  The newly-acquired Rafael Soriano will close for the Nats in 2013 but GM Mike Rizzo made it known today that he is still confident in Storen's abilities.

Swartz projected that Storen would earn $1.7MM through the arbitration process.  The reliever will be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.

The Nationals have six remaining unsigned arbitration eligible players: Roger Bernadina, Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen, and Jordan Zimmermann.  They're currently regarded as a file and trial team by case, and past history shows the team is certainly willing to go to a hearing.

Super Two Cutoff To Be 2.139

Players with at least two years and 139 days of service time will be eligible for the potentially lucrative arbitration process this offseason, according to the Associated Press (via FOXNews.com). The top 22% of players with between two and three years of MLB service qualify for arbitration under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement.

Nationals reliever Drew Storen, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Mets catcher Josh Thole, Rays outfielder Sam Fuld, Rockies outfielder Tyler Colvin and Diamondbacks third baseman Chris Johnson are all eligible. 

Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders missed the cutoff by one day. Others, including Justin Smoak, Danny Valencia, Michael Brantley, Jordan Schafer, Giancarlo Stanton, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel HudsonDan RunzlerAndrew Cashner, Alex Burnett, Esmil Rogers and Alexi Ogando, came close to super two status without reaching the threshold.

Jonathan Lucroy, whose contract includes escalators related to super two status, will fall three days short of arbitration eligibility. The difference will cost him $2MM, as I explained last month.

Super two status entitles certain players to four years of arbitration eligibility, rather than the usual three. As a result, players who earn the super two designation generally earn more than their peers. The cutoff would have been two years and 144 days under baseball’s previous collective bargaining agreement, according to the AP. In previous years the top 17% of players with between two and three years of MLB service qualified. The players and owners agreed to a new system last fall.

Adam Jones Extension Reactions

The Orioles are nearing a six-year, $85MM contract extension with center fielder Adam Jones. The deal, which is the largest in Orioles franchise history, will cover his final arbitration season (2013) and five free agent years (2014-18). Here are some notes on and reactions to the deal:

  • The deal's a win-win for Jones and the Orioles, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs writes. Cameron points out that we can expect more walks from Jones as he gains experience and notes that $75MM — the amount Baltimore committed to the center fielder's free agent years — doesn't always buy much on the open market.
  • The Orioles could have acquired John Lannan, Drew Storen and Steve Lombardozzi from the Nationals for Jones over winter, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports (on Twitter). Washington GM Mike Rizzo loves Jones, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter).
  • An NL executive says the Orioles did well to extend Jones instead of trading him last offseason, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes (on Twitter).
  • MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli‏ had been under the impression that the Orioles would have lost Jones to free agency after 2013 if they had waited until next offseason to discuss an extension (Twitter link).

Extension Candidate: Drew Storen

Long is the list of closers who've taken the circuitous route to ninth-inning stardom. Their stories makefor great narratives about perseverence. Some, like Sergio Santos, are failed position players who just so happened to be blessed with lightening bolts for right arms. Others, like Mariano Rivera, slogged through underwhelming starting careers before finding a home in the bullpen.

None of that applies to Drew Storen.

The Nats drafted the hot-shot closer out of Stanford with their second first-round pick in 2009 — you might have heard of their other first-rounder that year, Stephen Strasburg — at No. 10 overall. Storen made a grand total of 41 minor league appearances in late 2009 and early 2010 before getting The Call.

Some questioned the Nats' decision to take a closer so early in the draft, and many still would, but Storen hasn't disappointed on the promise he flashed as an amateur. He's logged a solid season of setup work as a rookie in 2010 (with five saves sprinkled in) and followed that up with an even better year as Washington's full-time closer in 2011. And with arbitration eligibility looming (as a likely Super Two) for Storen after what will presumably be another full season of closing in 2012, he's on the verge of getting pricey, which is why the Nats may be inclined to explore an extension for the right-hander.

As Matt Swartz explained in October, saves is one of the stats afforded substantial weight in arbitration hearings. Storen, if he gets through 2012 with his job and health intact, should head to arbitration with a conservative estimate of 80 career saves — and perhaps as many 95 or so. For reference, Brad Lidge, then of the Astros, was awarded $3.9MM as a first-time arbitration eligible closer after the 2005 season. Lidge, like Storen, was a setup man in his first big league season before spending the next two as a closer, during which time he piled up 72 saves. The Red Sox's Andrew Bailey also settled for $3.9MM this offseason after spending the first three years of his career as the Athletics' closer, netting 75 career saves, although he spent time on the DL in two of those three years.

So, Storen will likely seek about $4MM next offseason, and probably more. Of course, his salaries will only go up from there, likely breaking into the eight-figure range by his final year (or two) of arbitration eligibility, a la Jonathan Papelbon. The Nationals have deep pockets, but the idea of paying a closer that much — through arbitration, no less — can't sit well with many teams.

Interestingly, the Nationals have already shown a willingness to explore trading Storen, so I'd guess they're not interested in the kind of extension that would buy many, if any, years of free agency unless Storen were willing to surrender one or more at a pretty steep discount, which probably doesn't interest him in light of the kind of deals free-agent closers landed this offseason.

All that said, I think it would make sense for both sides to reach an extension of something like four years (beginning in 2013) and $22-24MM, which is similar to what Ben Nicholson-Smith recently prescribed for John Axford and the Brewers, with an extra year tacked on to account for Storen's likely Super Two status. At that rate, Storen would probably be leaving some money on the table — perhaps something like $10-12MM overall if he continues to produce like he did in 2011 — in exchange for security, but it's not a bad strategy for a 24-year-old who is slated to hit free agency in his prime but whose lifeblood is a role rather predisposed to volatility.

We haven't heard much about an extension for Storen yet, but whether such a deal would prove prudent for either team or player would largely depend on if this fast-riser is able to continue along on his path to elite-closer status.

Quick Hits: Yankees, Nationals, Playoffs

On this date in 1995, MLB owners and players agreed to end the strike that began in August of 1994. There hasn't been an MLB labor stoppage since, despite a close call in 2002. Here are some links for Friday evening…

  • The Yankees intend to lower payroll below $189MM by 2014, but GM Brian Cashman explained that the club will continue spending aggressively, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link). "We’re still the Yankees,” he said. “We’re still going to outspend everybody else. That’s not going to change."
  • The Nationals announced that they renewed the contracts of right-hander Drew Storen and outfielder Roger Bernadina. The team has the right to unilaterally assign the players a 2012 salary, since they aren’t yet eligible for salary arbitration.
  • ESPN.com's Jayson Stark has a detailed breakdown of the recently-announced postseason schedule. Stark also answers some common questions about the new format and explains why he's in favor of it. "One game — with the entire season riding on it," Stark writes. "It's March Madness with bats and balls."
  • MLB and the MLBPA aren’t considering expanding the postseason beyond ten teams at this point, Stark tweets. Michael Weiner of the MLBPA says the sides "never seriously discussed" that option.

Quick Hits: Harper, Storen, Mets, Moore

It was on this day in 1953 that the Dodgers promoted their Triple-A manager to take over the Major League job on a one-year contract.  Walter Alston remained in the Dodgers' dugout for the next 23 years, winning 2,040 games and leading the club to four World Series titles.

Some news from around the Majors as everyone lets the turkey settle…

  • The new Super Two regulations in the new collective bargaining agreement shouldn't have much impact on Nationals uber-prospect Bryce Harper, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
  • Drew Storen will only become more valuable to the Nationals as the price of closers continues to rise, opines Ben Goessling of MASNsports.com, though "there's a logical argument to be made for moving Storen at the height of his value."
  • The Mets are "still in [the] exploratory stage" of their offseason moves and "aren't close on anything," reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter).
  • Royals general manager Dayton Moore tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that he doesn't think his team will be negatively affected by the new CBA.  Dutton notes that the Royals spent much more than usual on draft signings and international prospects in the last year since the club was anticipating both avenues to be limited under baseball's new labor rules.

Quick Hits: Clippard, Storen, Ellsbury, Braves

B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman all homered for the Rays tonight as Tampa Bay defeated Boston, 9-2, in the opener of a big four-game series.  The Red Sox now have just a three-game lead over the Rays (and a four-game lead over the idle Angels) for the AL Wild Card.

Some notes from around the league….

Stark On Twins, Kuroda, Phillies

The Twins were willing to listen to offers for Francisco Liriano leading up to the trade deadline, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. However, Minnesota wanted a massive prospect return for the left-hander and no club met their asking price. Here’s the latest on the Twins with more of Stark’s notes from around MLB…

  • The chances that the Nationals can restart talks with Minnesota about Denard Span over the winter are not good, Stark reports. Minnesota wanted Drew Storen for their bullpen in an attempt to win now, but the Twins’ sense of urgency figures to disappear this offseason.
  • Rival teams say the Tigers and Red Sox each believed they were closing in on a deal for Hiroki Kuroda before the right-hander decided not to waive his no-trade clause.
  • The Red Sox and Rockies discussed an expanded deal that would have sent Josh Reddick to Colorado and Seth Smith to Boston while considering possible moves involving Ubaldo Jimenez. Talks between the 2007 World Series foes had essentially stopped by Saturday, though.
  • Though GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has publicly said Domonic Brown was not available, Stark hears from three different teams that the Phillies were willing to move the young outfielder in the right deal.
  • Teams that have spoken with the Phillies don’t expect them to be active on the waiver wire this month, since they want to avoid paying MLB’s luxury tax.

Quick Hits: Mets, Overbay, Springer, Storen, Stewart

Thanks to our loyal readers, MLBTR generated 3.1 million pageviews over the weekend!  We appreciate you making MLBTR a regular stop, and have a lot of cool things planned in the coming months.  On to today's links…