This is another one of these speculation posts during the offseason lull. The Cincinnati Reds have stated their plan is to go after relievers in free agency. That hasn’t happened yet.  They are still the only team without a free agent signing. We talked about Drew Storen as an option for the team to sign earlier this week, but I wanted to dive deeper into signing him this afternoon.

One name that I’ve heard floating around, though more so in the public space, is Drew Storen. Part of that is likely that he’s an Indiana guy, so there’s sort of that “hometown” thing going on. But, he’s also been pretty good in the past.

Drew Storen is coming off of what is easily his worst season of his career. He began it with the Blue Jays before joining the Mariners later in the year. In Toronto he posted a 6.21 ERA in 33.1 innings. That improved with Seattle where his ERA was 3.44 in 18.1 innings. The walks and the strikeouts weren’t too different between the two stops, though he walked and struck out more batters in Toronto than in Seattle. The big difference, was the home run rate. Seattle is a bigger park, while Toronto is a known home run ballpark. That played out as the home run rate in Toronto for the righty was more than three times as high as it was in Seattle.

Let’s jump into that home run rate a little bit, since Great American Ballpark does play out as rather home run friendly. Here are the splits:

IP HR HR/FB GB% FB%
Toronto 33.1 6 17.6% 47.2% 32.1%
Seattle 18.1 1 6.3% 51.9% 30.8%

While he was in Seattle his groundball rate was a little higher, but given the small sample size, it’s not a real difference. In Toronto, the 17.6% home runs/fly ball rate was incredibly high. It was better than the league average when he was in Seattle. In both cases, that’s probably due to the ballparks. With that said, his home run rate is very likely to come down moving forward. It’s never been anywhere near that high in the past.

Of course, there are a few concerns when it comes to Drew Storen, too. His velocity dropped nearly 2 MPH from 2015 to 2016. It was also higher in the 1st half of 2016 than the 2nd half of 2016. It’s gone down every year but one since 2012. There’s also the curious case of his batted ball profile.

Year GB%
2010 36.6%
2011 47.3%
2012 53.7%
2013 40.9%
2014 52.5%
2015 38.4%
2016 48.7%

He has altered his usage over the years between his 4-seam and 2-seam fastball. That could explain some of the differences. Over the last four years has gone to a change up far more frequently than he had in the first three seasons of his career. If the 50%+ groundball rate Drew Storen could join the club and keep a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio, it’s likely that he would be quite helpful out of the bullpen. The home run rate would be the only thing that could really cause problems with that, but if it were to return to something closer to his normal career rate, that wouldn’t be much of an issue.

What could really be a big factor is what it would take to bring him in. While he’s coming off of a poor season overall, he pitched well in the second half. One bad half-season, even though it was the most recent year in which it happened, probably doesn’t do enough damage to have him come in on a 1-year deal. I’d imagine he’s probably looking for at least two years, but more likely three. What is the market rate for a pitcher with a long history of success, but one half-season of poor performance?

Well, Ben Revere just got $4M after hitting .217/.260/.300 after hitting .303/.334/.360 in the previous four seasons combined. With the concerns in the drop in velocity, I’m not exactly sure how much I’d be willing to pay, but I think that $4-5M per year sounds about right. Perhaps I’m reading the market very incorrectly here, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with more than that given the velocity drop off. At $5M a year, for 3 years, there is some risk. At the same time, if he returns to form that could be a very good deal.

28 Responses

  1. DHud

    Why the heck not?

    I mean best case scenario he’s a good flip candidate at the deadline. Worst case scenario he can’t possibly be any worse of a signing than Gregg or Simon, right??

    • Doug Gray

      He’s going to cost significantly more to sign than those guys. Both in money and years, which is big because if he’s not good, your stuck with him for more than one.

  2. Matthew O'Neal

    It couldn’t hurt to bring him in on a 1 year deal. Potential to flip him at the deadline. Only question would be who do you subtract from the 40-man. Because at this point you can’t wait on a Cozy trade or a BP trade since both seem unlikely.

      • Matthew O'Neal

        See, I thought him at first too, but why would it have to be him? He OPS’d .822 for LOU last year and .810 in his call ups with the big club. He’s got a career slash of .295/.379/.459 which I think isn’t bad. His only downside is he’s 27, but that’s not that bad, either. He’s also got decent fielding numbers. He’s also spent time at 1B, so if a Votto injury happens, you’ve got backup.

  3. Arnold Ziffle

    I’ve always liked Storen and was puzzled at his quick demise. In Toronto, I believe I read somewhere last year that Storen was getting busted on his change-up that would come in flat every now and then. Maybe Dan Straily can teach him that new change up grip like he did for Finnegan. The 13 BB’s he had even in his worst season in 51 IP’s would be an improvement on last years bullpen.
    The stats in Seattle are somewhat encouraging. Storen made $8.4M last year, so he won’t come cheaply. I don’t think the Reds real him in on a 1 year deal. Another two-year contract on a reliever? For Storen, yeah maybe.

    • RFM

      Reds can also offer Storen (or another pitcher) a chance to close, which he may find desirable, rather than being buried deeper in the pen by a better team. If his goal is to play for a contender, believing in his ability to close for the Reds for a few months might be his best shot.

    • Stock

      Actually his change up was one of his two “decent” pitches. He was getting crushed on his four seam fastball (.592 slg) and sinker (.553). Ignoring the BB the OPS was well over .900 on the two combined. The change-up was .569 OPS (ignoring BB).

  4. Steven

    Don’t waste money on any FA relievers. Find the necessary 7-8 relievers from within the organization. 2017 is about figuring out who will be significant pieces for 2018 and beyond. With players running out of options and proving themselves through competition, it’ll all settle itself.

    • MuddyCleats

      Tend 2 agree. Reds R rebuilding so why not let the young guys battle it out & find out who is worth keeping? Looks like 4 spots R settled leaving maybe 2 spots one of which needs 2 B a LH who has a CB 2 get tough LHHs out in key situations. I’d prefer Travis Wood, Jon Neise or even Dillion Gee. All 3 have ML success and experience that could help our young pitchers. Likewise, all 3 could spot start, long relieve or be used in spot situations.

  5. RFM

    First big risk of Dick Williams’ career – if he gambles ~$5m/year on the right guy and wins (guy has a great year and gets traded for a prospect) he’s a genius. If he gambles wrong he’ll never be forgiven by much of the fan base. If the player gets hurt he’ll be an embarrassing sunk cost, if the player doesn’t return to form like the team gambles he will it’ll look like they’ve just spent more money for more of the same.

    Of the remaining free agent bullpen candidates Joe Smith also stands out geographically… born in Cincinnati, went to Amelia HS, and Wright State.

    Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson demonstrate, in my opinion, the risk with relievers. No matter how great they’ve been for how long or how justified the contract may be, nobody remembers the smart decision if there’s an unfavorable outcome. To a lesser extent there’s JJ Hoover, whose career seems to have ended abrutply. In this case they’re looking for guys with red flags which lower their prices.

  6. Norwood Nate

    I’ll stand by my stance of not throwing away money in the bullpen. I’d rather see all the relievers that the Reds had in AA/AAA get a shot before we spend money in the most volatile position in baseball. The HR rate worries me, as does the loss of velocity. I wouldn’t offer more than a 1 year deal and probably not for more than 2.5m. I understand he probably wouldn’t take that, and if not, no big loss.

    • Arnold Ziffle

      No, no, no. No more than 1 rookie in he bullpen is needed, and that should be Stephenson. There aren’t enough Rolaids and Tums in the world to cure the heartburn the Reds bullpens have brought us in the last two seasons.

      • Norwood Nate

        Really all I’m talking about is 1 maybe two rookies. We know we will see Iglesias, Lorenzen, Cingrani, and Wood in the pen. I’d like to see Diaz in the picture, and I think he’ll get another shot. I think Adleman would make for another nice addition as a long man. None of those guys are rookies. So then you’re talking 1 more guy.

        And there’s nothing inherently wrong with rookies, especially if they have talent. I’d say more of the guys that have contributed to bad bullpens the past two years were FAs, either minor league or MLB rather than rookies. Gregg, Simon, Ohlendorf, D. Diaz, JC Ramirez, Morris, Badenhop, and so on.

        They may not be ready at the start of the year, but we have some talented relievers in the upper minors. Ones who have performed in the AFL against some top prospects, such as Astin, Mitchell, and Routt. I’d like to see those guys, and a few others, get a chance if there’s a need later into the season rather than needing to find innings for a FA reliever that won’t be around when we’re competitive.

      • MuddyCleats

        Understand the angst, but young guys need a place to learn. Might be different if Reds where adding pieces elsewhere, but they R NOT! Might as well let the young guys develop

    • Bill

      I’m with you Nate. Avoid the bullpen money pit. As for Storen specifically, I don’t like the drop in velocity or especially the HR rate. Not a good fit in my opinion even if the price comes way down.

  7. MK

    Storen and Barnhart attended same high school. although 4 years apart. If GB percentage up and velocity down maybe he has adjusted for a natural sink when velocity goes down.

    • Doug Gray

      That would make sense if it happened in his other high ground ball seasons, but it didn’t.

  8. Mclean

    I’m just overwhelmed with the job the Reds front office has done this off season… truly inspiring!

    • Cguy

      Since Reds front office was ranked last in 2016, maybe doing almost nothing is the best they can do.

  9. DaveCT

    Doug, what about ballpark factors upon his rebound last year? Seattle is not a home run haven, and neither are the other AL West parks. Doesn’t this possibly neutralize his 2nd half improvements in 2016? If so, I get yellow caution lights blinking like crazy, coming to GABP.

  10. Patrick

    I say no way. His GB rate is too much. Especially with giving up home runs

  11. greg niemeyer

    What would Bob Barker say…
    “If the Price is Right.”
    Or he would tell us to get him spayed or neutered, one of the two.

    • Doug Gray

      I hope he doesn’t tell me that….. I’m not being responsible for spaying, or neutering a human being.

      • HavaKlu

        No, no ,no. In 86 innings at AAA last year Guthrie gave up 120 hits and pitched to a 7.17 ERA. At best, he would be a replay of jason Maquis

  12. MK

    Was watching a replay of the Australian League All Star and Jeremy Guthrie pitched an inning for the World Team. He is a free agent and might be that type of veteran the Reds seem to like to sign. Heck he started a World Series game two years, might be worth at least a Spring training look.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree, made that argument last season. He’s played on a championship team and knows what it takes. Maybe he could impart that knowledge & work ethic 2 a few of our young guys. Another reason why I like ex-Red Travis Wood fm Cubs.

  13. Stock

    I don’t like the idea of Storen. I think his velocity has dropped to the point that his four seam fastball is extremely hittable.

    If the Reds are going to take a risk on a RP they should go after Holland. Coming off TJ surgery but if they sign him to a two or three year contract the payoff in July should be similar or better than what the Yankees received for Chapman last year.