The Nationals are expected to shop reliever Drew Storen at the upcoming Winter Meetings, reports Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Storen was in the midst of a career renaissance as the Nationals’ closer last season before the club acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies. Storen pitched poorly and eventually broke his hand in an off-field incident after being displaced as the team’s closer.
Storen, 28, is club controlled through next season. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects him to earn $8.8MM in arbitration. In 55 innings, Storen finished last season with a 3.44 ERA, 10.96 K/9, and 2.62 BB/9. He was even better prior to the acquisition of Papelbon. He posted a 1.64 ERA, 11.27 K/9, and 2.11 BB/9 through his first 38 frames.
The presence of Papelbon on the roster makes Storen expendable for the Nationals. We’ve heard earlier this offseason that Papelbon would be hard to shop due to perceived personality issues. Papelbon also physically assaulted franchise star Bryce Harper. Some analysts thought the club might cut Papelbon after the incident, but it appears all parties have made amends.
Interestingly, the Nationals are pursuing free agent reliever Darren O’Day. The 33-year-old is expected to run about four-years and $36MM to sign. While they’re remarkably different pitchers, O’Day and Storen project similarly in 2016. Storen is also younger and doesn’t require a commitment beyond 2016.
It’s possible the team views Storen as a change of scenery candidate. This was the third time he lost the Nationals closer job. The first was due to an elbow injury and the second time occurred when the team signed Rafael Soriano. The club may also simply view O’Day’s funky delivery as a valuable change of pace from Papelbon. They may see an O’Day signing; Storen trade sequence as a way to improve elsewhere without hurting the bullpen.