Poor Drew Storen.
The most recent memory that most will have of the 25-year old will be his heartbreaking four-run collapse in game five of last year’s NL Division Series, but it wasn’t so long ago (2011) that Storen was one of the most dominant closers in the league.
But now, with the Washington Nationals signing Rafael Soriano to take over the closing spot, 2013 is wrought with uncertainty as to what Storen’s role will be. The ninth-inning job that he was groomed to do for so long is further away than ever, and he may not even be the team’s go-to setup man, a position that’s been occupied by Tyler Clippard in years past.
Even if he is now part of what is arguably the best bullpen in the big leagues, it has to be disheartening for Storen, especially considering that he pitched brilliantly last season (2.37/0.99 ERA/WHIP, .210 BAA) in an injury-shortened campaign.
The Nationals now have the very good problem of having a trio of closers on their team. Usually, that would mean someone is likely going to be on their way out in the near future as the team looks to parlay that into an upgrade elsewhere. The Nats, however, are not a usual case, as the team is set just about everywhere on the field with good depth behind the positions; ditto their starting rotation, which sees former ace Dan Haren slotted in the fifth spot.
So I suppose you could say that on paper, the Nationals aren’t really going to be motivated to move anyone, including Storen, but we know by now that seasons rarely happen as they’re intended to on paper. The team already knows that second baseman Danny Espinosa will be playing through a torn right rotator cuff next season, meaning that their depth will inevitably be tested as they try to repeat at the best team in MLB in 2013.
Should a need come up with the Nationals in 2013, and they look to fix it via the trade route, you’d have to imagine that Storen will be one of the first names to come up in any rumor. It won’t be the first time it’s happened, with his name being linked to Denard Span only a couple of seasons ago.
Of course, the team wound up getting their man this off-season without giving up Storen, but even the best of teams will need to face potential personnel changes throughout a given season, and that the Nats have a shut-down closer who isn’t closing in Storen is arguably be their biggest trade chip. Recent trades for closers of his ilk have seen returns like Josh Reddick (for Andrew Bailey) and Tommy Hanson (Jordan Walden), and Storen’s superior track record should yield even bigger returns in a trade.
If some of the question marks – like Espinosa or Haren’s health, for example – on the team turns out to require significant action in 2013, don’t be surprised if the Nationals cash in on the youngest of their trio of closers in the bullpen.