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.

18 Responses to Extension Candidate: Drew Storen Leave a Reply

  1. This is the guy the Twins need to trade for and extend. There will be a lot of outfielders coming up through the system in the next few years, and we will not have space for all of them. We can replace Denard Span easier than drafting and developing an elite closer.

    • Guest 3 years ago

      apparently your gm didn’t agree last july

      • Last July, our GM was Bill Smith, the guy who traded Johan Santana for practically nothing. I’m sure it won’t happen, but a Storen-Span trade could work out really well for both teams. 

    • FS54 3 years ago

      Doesn’t Span has some concussion issues? Anyways I love Drew Storen but if we could have drafted Trout back in 09, we wouldn’t be looking for a CF now.

      • LazerTown 3 years ago

        if you could redo drafts, so many teams would pick differently.  But personally i think that you should pick the player that has the best shot at being a solid ml player.  a good closer can always be flipped later for several top prospects.

        • FS54 3 years ago

          You are right but I think Storen’s pick was more like a safe bet signing than anything else after the Crow debacle the year before.

  2. DunkinDonuts 3 years ago

    They caught the “proscribed” error before I could fire off an angry letter.

  3. Colin Christopher 3 years ago

    I think Storen is slightly overrated, but your research is solid so I guess I’d have to admit that those numbers seem about right for a Storen extension.

    By the way…in your phrase, “…lightening bolts for right arms,” it’s “lightning”, not “lightening.”

    • Amish_willy 3 years ago

      I dunno, I think it’s a ton of money to guarantee a relief pitcher’s arbitration years, which is all the 4/22-24m guarantee would cover, due to his being a Super-2 after 2012. Neither Bailey or Lidge were Super-2’s, they had 3 full seasons under their belts when the first hit arbitration, not to mention better numbers:

      Lidge after ’05 – 160 era+, 12.8 k/9
      Bailey now – 206 era+, 9 k/9
      Storen now – 128 era+, 8.7k/9

      I’m kindof confused by this piece. If Storen gets 22-24m for his four arbitration years, is he really leaving 10-12m on the table?? He’s a very nice young closer, but he hasn’t really done anything eye popping to warrant that financial gamble that wouldn’t even cover a single free agent year. I would punt this idea for atleast a year or two. The deal would be bigger if they are still talking extension at that time, but atleast it would involve additional control years.

      • I agree that Storen isn’t necessarily better than any of those guys, but the stats you’ve cited aren’t important in arbitration hearings.

        Four years of arbitration eligibility is going to make a big difference for Storen in the long run. If he starts out with a 2013 salary of $4MM and earns raises of $2-3MM per year each year thereafter, he could be looking at salaries in the range of $10MM and $12MM in his final two years.

        For reference, Papelbon earned $27.6MM over his three arbitration years, and he wasn’t even a Super Two.

        • Amish_willy 3 years ago

          Point being, any team giving Storen that kind of money on a guaranteed deal is a bad precedent for a team to make. Yes, Papelbon earned 27.6m over his three arbitration years, but he also did it going year-to-year versus a pre-arbitration extension, not to mention a far sexier resume.

          I get the extensions buying out only arbitration years for guys like Votto & Lincecum & to a lesser extent Sandoval & Andrus, but Storen’s extension would need some free agent option years (and not at Papelbon’s FA going rate) to go with a lower guarantee then suggested for it to be a prudent move from the teams standpoint. At this juncture, what are the odds Storen is his same self in four years time? 50% higher, lower? Being able to go year-to-year on him isn’t a bad spot to be in at all. It’s not like they won’t have the ability to lock him up in two years time. Yeah it’d cost more money, but then again the deal would be covering different years, thus keeping him longer (if he does continue on his path). Closers can go from elite to afterthought’s faster then any other position, and it’s not even close. Whose to say Storen’s next several years don’t unfold ala Gagne or Broxton, and again I don’t even think were begining on that level of dominance.  

          • I don’t disagree with your premise, but this is the game of chicken played by teams and their young players. The Rays got Longo well below market value, but if his knee blows out tomorrow, then that won’t be the case anymore.

            The Nats could go year-to-year with Storen, but he will get very expensive in his last two years of arbitration eligibility, at which point it will be even harder to trade him for something of value because the acquiring team won’t want to pay much for a reliever who’s bound to drag them through arb for 10 or 12 mil.

  4. LUWahooNatFan 3 years ago

    Lock him and up and the Nationals complete a great combo at the back end of the bullpen(Clip and Store another Curly W)

    If his slider continues to develop like it did last year he could be an elite closer down the road, like what I’ve seen from him the past few years though

  5. Brian McKeever 3 years ago

    I just want to know who exactly would STILL question picking Storen at #10, given that he has turned out to be at least a borderline potential all star, and became a major contributor to the team a year after he was drafted.  How many guys drafted where he was or even higher never even MAKE the Majors?  

    Storen currently has the third highest career WAR of any player drafted in the 1st round in 2009, even better than Strasburg.  

    • If you question the process rather than the result …

    • MetsMagic 3 years ago

      I question it. If the draft was done in hindsight, every first rounder would be a star and the Pirates would’ve set themselves up for a dynasty. A lot of the pitchers taken after Storen had their stock fall (James, Matzek) but I can guarantee you no team is trading Shelby Miller, Mike Trout, or Nick Franklin for Storen. 

  6. Duderino, that’s just the trend in MLB these days.

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