Grant Balfour’s deal with the Orioles falling through was the talk of the offseason at one point, but seems a distant memory by now. Despite saying his shoulder was 100% healthy, Balfour has yet to agree to terms with another club, and MLBTR mentioned earlier today that the Washington Nationals might be interested in the veteran closer. This report came from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The interesting thing about that would be that it would give the Nationals four relievers with closing experience in recent years.
Discuss Drew Storen and the O’s bullpen on the BSL Forums here.
Also in MLBTR’s report is an interesting note about one of those four pitchers: Drew Storen. Storen would likely be fourth on the late inning depth chart, and is a candidate to be moved by the club:
The Nats already have three relievers with closing experience in Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, but the addition of Balfour could make sense for a variety of reasons, Rosenthal writes.
According to sources, GM Mike Rizzo & Co. would like to trade Storen, who will earn $3.45MM in 2014.
Storen is an interesting pitcher who struggled at times last year, and as a result spent six games in AAA due to his poor performance. Despite this though, Storen has a track record of solid performance, a very good pedigree, and the stuff to close out games. This is why he makes an ideal trade target for the Orioles.
Drew Storen has spent four seasons as a reliever for the Nationals, and has a 3.40 ERA (3.26 FIP) over 222.2 IP in his career. He’s a four pitch pitcher, using a 4-seam fastball, sinker, change up, and slider in a relatively balanced four pitch mix to retire batters. In 2013, Storen threw his fastball, sinker, and slider roughly 30% of the time each, with a change mixed in about 10% of the time.
Storen also has the pedigree of being a solid closer, as he earned 43 saves, while blowing just 5 games, over 75+ innings in 2011. His emergence as a top notch closer was slowed by the Nats who didn’t immediately place Storen back into the role after coming back from elbow surgery in 2012. Storen proved that he was healthy though, posting a 2.37 ERA (2.40 FIP) in 2012 after coming back from surgery.
Last season however, Storen struggled – posting a 4.52 ERA over 61.2 IP – and being demoted to AAA at one point as a result of his performance. However, Storen’s year was kind of a story of tow halves. In the first half Storen’s ERA was 0.78 runs higher than it was in the second half, and his FIP dropped by a roughly equal amount from the first half to the second. He also saw his wOBA against drop .057 points in the second half to a decent .282.
A large part of this was a regression to the mean for luck, as Storen’s BABIP against dropped from a ridiculously high .333 in the first half to a much more average .294 in the second half. He also saw his HR/9 drop from 1.37 in the first half, which is almost double his career rate.
Various projection systems like Storen’s chances to bounce back next season as most of his peripheral stats were in line with career averages, and he’s been very good over his career. Both Steamer and Oliver project Storen to have an ERA in the 3.20-3.35 range, while striking out more than 8 batters per 9 innings, and giving up fewer than three walks.
Storen would likely be a pretty good upgrade over any other pitcher (Hunter, Webb, Norris, etc.) the Orioles could throw into the closer spot. He’s only owed $3.25 million this season as a second time arb-eligible guy, and would likely command $5-7MM next season if his performance continues along his career trends. That would be reasonable for a guy who would likely lock down the closing role for a playoff-hopeful team.
So what would it take to get Storen? I spoke with a Nats fan and fellow blogger to determine what the price might be. After some back and forth over value, we landed on the following trade:
BAL receives: RHP – Storen
WAS receives: LHP – Matusz, C – Joseph
Matusz for Storen seemed light given the fact that Matusz doesn’t have the upside in the ‘pen that Storen does, nor does he have that shiny save total that Storen boasts. Throwing in a solid AA catcher with a decent pedigree makes sense for both sides. The O’s should be willing to split with Joseph considering that Caleb Joseph is 27, the same age as Wieters, and the O’s have Michael Ohlman not too far behind to replace Joseph’s spot on the depth chart.
The O’s have a lot of options for lefties in the bullpen, with the most likely options being McFarland, De La Cruz, and Britton. Washington on the other hand has plenty of back-end arms, but no solid lefties they can rely on to fill a LOOGY role, or more. The O’s could then go out and sign Eric O’Flaherty who could eventually help the team after rehabbing from TJ Surgery.
This trade makes sense for both teams, and gives the O’s an option to close games that would cost them the same amount for two years that a free agent closer like Fernando Rodney would cost for one.