MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon finally got to break news that the Cincinnati Reds signed a player to a big league contract, something the team had yet to do at any point this entire offseason. The guy? Drew Storen, the Washington Nationals’ former closer, who just so happens to hail from Reds country originally.
#reds have signed RHP Drew Storen to a one-year contract. Big league deal.— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) January 3, 2017
The New York Post's Joel Sherman later revealed that Storen's deal would guarantee him just $3 million for 2016, with up to $1.5 million in incentives.
It's been no secret that the Reds have been shopping for veteran arms, particularly ones that could help out in the back end of the team's bullpen. That bullpen, you'll remember, was the worst in all of baseball in 2016 by most every metric imaginable, and also featured a distinct lack of a clear "closer" after Aroldis Chapman was traded prior to the start of the season. Storen, I'd wager, now figures to slot in an 8th or 9th inning role alongside the likes of Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and Tony Cingrani, with a very real chance to claim the "closer" role.
Just what the Reds will get from the Brownsburg, IN native is a bit more of a question mark than many would like, however. The former 1st round pick (10th overall in 2009) had a great string of success with Washington after first being called up, posting a combined 129 ERA+ in 355 games from 2010-2015, repping a 3.02 ERA with 95 total saves in that span. Of course, he famously lost his role as closer when the team opted to acquire jerky Jonathan Papelbon for their stretch run in 2015, which imploded both the Nats' season and Storen's then-successful big league career. He spent the 2016 season split between the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays after being traded to Toronto prior to the season in exchange for Ben Revere, and pretty well had a sub-par year by his own standards, his 1.34 WHIP and overall 5.23 ERA well above his career marks to that point. Fortunately - and this is what the Reds will hope is truer than those other stats - his strikeout and walk rates were still close to his career norms.
RedsMinorLeagues.com's Doug Gray took a closer look at Storen just last week, noting the change in both his pitch repertoire as he's aged as well as the velocity decline that dovetailed with it. Coincidentally, the only other arm the Reds have been specifically connected to this offseason - former Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Neftali Feliz - appeared as a buy low option in large part due to his rediscovered velocity, though it's that type of information that may well have priced him out of the Reds' range.
On just a 1-year deal, Storen will presumably get the chance to recoup some of his previous value and may well end up a prime mid-year trade chip - something the rebuilding Reds were willing to invest in. And with just $3 million guaranteed, he's exactly the kind of high-reward player they should be risking cash to sign.