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Key to trade isn’t Papelbon, it’s Storen

Jul 29, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

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Take the names and reputations out of the equation and consider for a moment the basic facts of what happened yesterday: The Nationals acquired one of baseball’s best closers of the last decade, a 6-time All-Star and World Series champion in the midst of a dominant season, giving up only a second-tier prospect while convincing the trading club to pick up nearly all of his salary for the rest of this season and convincing said player to accept a $2 million pay cut for next season.

Shouldn’t everybody be doing cartwheels down South Capitol Street right now?

Perhaps some people are, but it sure seems like the vast majority are wholly upset by the trade Mike Rizzo consummated Tuesday afternoon with the Phillies. Why? Because of the names and reputations of the affected parties, which are impossible to ignore.

The Nationals didn’t merely do everything outlined in the earlier paragraph. They traded for Jonathan Papelbon. And bumped Drew Storen from the closer’s role for the second time in three years.

And that’s what left so many people so uneasy Tuesday as details of this deal slowly trickled out before becoming official around nightfall. They’re uncomfortable with Papelbon’s reputation (whether that’s warranted or not) and they’re uncomfortable with the idea of Storen losing his job yet again despite not having done anything to merit a demotion.

In a purely baseball sense, this is a brilliant move by Rizzo. He identified his club’s biggest need (an inconsistent and inexperienced bullpen) and proceeded to acquire a big-name reliever who immediately makes that unit better than it was 24 hours ago. Now the Nationals have not only an All-Star-caliber closer but an All-Star-caliber setup man as well, a formula that typically pays big dividends come October.

Trouble is, you can never truly evaluate these things from a baseball sense and nothing but a baseball sense. There are human beings involved, and so it’s never as simple as it appears on paper.

How will this trade be received within the Nationals’ clubhouse? And more importantly, will that translate in any way to what happens on the field?

Which is why the key to this entire transaction has little to do with the guy who was acquired, the guy who was dealt away or the money involved. No, the key to this transaction is the guy already on the roster who now must find a way to swallow his pride, accept a lower-profile role and keep being as effective as he has been all along.

Papelbon is going to be just fine. He’s an excellent closer with a rock-solid track record for pitching the ninth inning in big games, owner of an 88.6 percent career save conversion rate that ranks sixth-best among anyone with at least 200 saves. He managed to go a perfect 17-for-17 in save opportunities with a horrid Phillies club the last four months. There’s no reason he can’t continue to pitch that way now with a contending Nationals club.

The real question is how Storen handles all of this. The point has been made before, but it needs to be made again now: He arguably has been the best reliever in baseball over the last two calendar years. Since returning from his brief demotion to Class AAA Syracuse in the summer of 2013, he owns a 1.37 ERA. That’s the best mark of any MLB reliever who has pitched at least 50 innings. (Papelbon, for what it’s worth, ranks 24th on that list with a still-impressive 2.07 ERA.)

Storen worked really hard to recapture that form after his well-known blown save in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS and subsequent disaster of a half-season following the Nationals’ signing of Rafael Soriano. He did not handle that situation well, not even close, and it took quite awhile for him to get past it.

Now, the Nats are asking him to do it all over again. And this time, after four months of pure brilliance pitching the ninth inning, with 29 saves in 31 opportunities, a 1.73 ERA and a 44-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

It’s impossible for Storen to view this trade as anything but a vote of no confidence from his bosses in his ability to close out games in October. There’s no debating his ability to close out games from April through September. October, however, has been a different story. Not that there’s a particularly large sample of work, but Storen’s postseason resume includes one save in three chances, three clean innings to begin the 2012 NLDS but three shaky innings since.

Rizzo and the Nationals certainly have the right to be concerned about that. But if they were that deeply concerned about it, they also had the right to trade Storen at any time over the last three years. Instead, they twice have chosen to make bold, unexpected acquisitions that suggest their faith in their homegrown closer is something far less than complete.

It’s easy to say that Storen — or anyone placed into this scenario — just needs to suck it up and go pitch well, no matter his official role. And in some respects, yes, that’s exactly what he needs to do.

But again, these aren’t robots taking the field every night. They’re not statlines, either. They’re human beings. They have human emotions. And if they can’t channel those emotions into positive performances on the mound under immense pressure, nothing else matters.

Storen’s remarks to reporters after last night’s loss in Miami certainly suggested he’s not 100 percent on-board with the Papelbon trade. And there certainly must be a part of the 27-year-old that at this point would prefer to move on and pitch the ninth inning for someone who does convey full confidence in him.

But that’s not going to happen, at least not until this season is over. The Nationals acquired Papelbon not because they needed to swap closers, but because they needed more quality relievers.

They now have two of the best in the game taking up space in the same bullpen. How the guy who just saw his role reduced for the second time in three years handles all of this will determine whether Rizzo’s latest bold maneuver was a stroke of genius or the impetus for disaster.

196 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. scmargenau - Jul 29, 2015 at 6:19 AM

    Oh boy. I sure hope dru doesn’t melt down over this. 8th, 9th we need em both – pride goeth…

  2. nats1924 - Jul 29, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    Storen is a good guy, and a good closer.

    But, there is still question marks with his ability to close playoff games. We all try to sweep it under the rug, but he did fail both in 2012 & 2014.

    Hopefully he doesnt take this personally and can close out 7th and 8th innings.

    Go Nats!

    • Presidents Race Fan - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      Oh lord, it will never die. Bad umpire in 2012. Bad matchup in 2014. Good closer all around.

      • janebeard - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:08 AM

        I agree.

  3. Pete "Hit 'n Run" Wood - Jul 29, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    If I were on the Nats roster, I would be wondering about Mike Rizzo’s judgement and how much he cares, or doesn’t, about the vibes in the dugout. team chemistry is very important if a team really aspires to glory, and I predict this trade could really damage that of the Nats.

  4. Joe Seamhead - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:06 AM

    I truly hope that this all works out.On paper it looks fantastic, but I agree there are human emotions and egos involved. Now ask me if I feel sorry for Drew and I’ll tell you that I’m more worried about whether he has the fortitude, or “Natitude,” if you will, to handle it then I’m worried about his feelings. But the fact is, this bullpen has been a huge weak spot for this team. If everybody goes out and does their jobs the Nats can win with these guys. Is Papelbon a jerk? Seems like it. But I actually like a bit of an attitude on my baseball teams. Ask almost anybody outside of DC what they think of Bryce Harper and I’ll tell you “jerk” would be the first word that you’ll hear out of most people. Part of why I loved about the Jayson Werth signing from day one was the attitude that he brought to this team. For that matter, I love Mike Rizzo’s attitude. My hope is that Jonathan Papelbon brings more of an attitude to this team and that some of it rubs off on some of the guys that are already here and makes “Natitude” something more than a silly cliche.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:10 AM

      Darn, missed the edit button again: Part of “What” I loved about the Jayson Werth signing is what I meant.

      Attitude is a good thing when you can back it up with good play.

  5. Dave - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:11 AM

    Two thoughts:

    1. If Drew can’t cope with helping the team by getting outs in the eighth inning, then how much of a “clubhouse guy” is he, really?

    2. What has Papelbon done to warrant the labels “jerk” and “clubhouse cancer” other than make an obscene gesture once in reaction to a crowd of some of the worst fans in sports? (BTW, Pap is not the only Phillie in recent years to express frustration with the fans. Remember Rollins’ “front runner” remark?)

    I look forward to seeing Papelbon closing games deep in the post season.

    • Danny - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:18 AM

      Playoffs!? I just want to win another game

  6. Sam - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:19 AM

    Concerns that Storen doesn’t have the “makeup” to closr games in October are BS. He had two bad games out of the six he pitched. That doesn’t make him bad – that’s bad luck.

    The silver lining to this trade is that now Matt Williams – who is paralyzed and handcuffed by the traditional (read: outdated and wasteful) use of stagnant bullpen roles – now has more flexibility to use Storen in higher leverage situations than some 9th inning situations.

    Either way, I am 100% sure Storen will be gone the first chance he gets (in FA of asking for a trade). However, given his track record of success, I imagine the price tag was going to be pretty high – probably too high for Rizzo to commit to anyway. So, I think he would have been gone anyway, perhaps in an under the radar trade a la Tyler Clippard last winter.

    I’m sad because Storen is my favorite player on the team. However, this is, theoretically, a good baseball move.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:16 AM

      I was sad the way Lannan was treated and jettisoned to AAA and Detwiler inserted. I quickly got over it.

      This is a results business and anyone who can say with a straight face that they would trust Drew Storen in a 1 run save in the postseason with Adrian Gonzalez at-bat and a man on 1st is either lying or doesn’t know who Adrian Gonzalez is.

      • IsawTeddywin - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:51 AM

        I don’t trust any closer in that situation. Or any starter.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:55 AM

        Good answer but we trust some a little bit more.

  7. rayvil01 - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:20 AM

    In some games the save comes in the eighth inning. And, the Nats have blown a few of those. Who was a better eighth-inning man on the market than Storen in that role? Benoit? No way. So, going that route the best fix for Rizzo was to put Storen there and get an equivalent closer.

    Great move.

    Hitch up your Big Boy britches, Drew. This is the Bigs.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:30 AM

    The starters are excited.

    “Go six innings and hand it off to those guys and they’re gonna lock it down most of the time,” he said. “It’s exciting.”

    • zmunchkin - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:32 AM

      Agreed.

      The team is better with Papelbon. And now with Rendon, Werth and RZ back – who collectively went 4 for 10 last night!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:33 AM

        Now get me Benoit and trade them Aaron Barrett.

      • rayvil01 - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:53 AM

        “Now get me Benoit and trade them Aaron Barrett.”

        Getting greedy? I like it!

        I don’t think Rizzo is done, do you?

      • zmunchkin - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:58 AM

        I hope he’s not done.

        Getting Benoit would be a nice addition. Do you have any intel Ghost on whether Rizzo is planning to do more?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:58 AM

        rayvil, why not.

      • rayvil01 - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:03 AM

        Ghost, maybe he is done. He doesn’t need a bench guy, that’s for sure. I was thinking he may trade a BP arm or two (Barrett) to get another solid reliever. Benoit would fit the bill nicely.

  9. natsjackinfl - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    I’m enjoying reading all the wide ranging comments on this trade.

    But I am more concerned about Fister and his start tonight. Does anyone really see Fister pitching well enough to provide the Nats with a win?

    He’ s my least favorite starter on the staff. Even his most recent attempts at sacrifice bunting have ended in total incompetence and I never would have figured that.

    Somehow I hope he figures out what’s gone so wrong witwith his mechanics and throws a solid 7 innings but I’m not holding my breath.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:54 AM

      Quick hook needed if he doesn’t pitch well. Hoping he can throw a gem and get back on track.

      • janebeard - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:39 AM

        No point in a quick hook. Who do you put in instead?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:47 AM

        Roark to get to the 6th and then lets see the new bullpen, but hopefully Fister turns the corner and pitches a gem.

        More of a salary dump. Mikey Mo on the move again.

    • stoatva - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:01 AM

      The sight of Fister’s name in the probables hasn’t given me a good feeling in quite a while. On the other hand it’s a huge ballpark where even Dan Haren has found success.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:07 AM

      Short answer – No, I dont. But I hope and pray to the baseball God’s that Dougie Fresh has a resurgence every time he comes out.

      Hope SS can come back soon. Dougie may need to rest that arm for 15 days or so and hand the reigns over to Joe Ross…

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:09 AM

      Sucks for Fister that he is having his worst year as a pro in his walk year.

      Sucks for the Nats too.

    • joemktg - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:34 AM

      If Fister can just hold on to a .500 performance for his remaining 12-15 starts, and not go into a Soriano-like dive bomb, I’ll take that. He won’t play a role in the playoffs, so just tread water and that’s OK.

      After the 2015 campaign is over, it’s another story.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:55 AM

        How glad are peeps that Rizzo didn’t sign him to a long term contract?

    • Section 222 - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:57 AM

      nj, wanted to make sure you saw my tweet from Pittsburgh the last time Fister pitched:

    • hokiepokster92 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:25 AM

      I agree. Fister has not been right all year. His sinker is not sinking and he’s getting squared up with too much regularity.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:11 AM

        Outfielders I hate to say have to play back deeper.

  10. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    The truth of the matter, Rizzo wanted Chapman and there would have been a dual closer role since Chapman is a lefty, but the Reds wanted a package of prospects which would have hurt the team in the future. With Paps, he made the “closer” demands which was the only way Rizzo could get him, but it was those demands and Paps demand for a trade that this really was a salary dump and the Nats had to give up a pitcher (Pivetta) who most likely will never be a top of the rotation guy.

    If you put “Team” before “Me” this was a great trade. BTW, I don’t see from Janssen’s comments that he’s upset. He thought he was coming to the Nats as the 8th inning set-up man. Also I don’t believe at all that Storen’s future value was negatively affected. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Rizzo offered Storen an extension which Storen will turn down.

    • rayvil01 - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:00 AM

      It was a great trade. Rizzo somehow makes deals without giving up the farm. We all lament Billy Burns. He doesn’t hit on all of them. But, his track record is pretty good.

      He had to improve this bullpen. Had to. When you get into a spot where you have to do something you take the best available option. The truth is that the Royals overpaid for Cueto which helped Jocketty sit on too high an asking price. Seller’s market. I’m thrilled that Rizzo didn’t sell out our future. I listened to Thom Loverro saying trade Ross, Turner, and a MLB player to get Chapman. I was screaming “Nooooooo!” at the radio. Thank goodness Rizzo is smarter than these sports media people.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:04 AM

        Loadverro really said that? What an idiot. No team is giving up their #2 and #3 prospects for a closer. That package gets you Cole Hamels!!!!

      • rayvil01 - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:13 AM

        Oh yes he did!

        What did the Reds want for Chapman?

      • coolhandbane - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:18 AM

        So he would give up an Aaron Barrett, Joe Ross and Trea Turner for 1 season plus 2 months of control? That is a joke. Aaron Barrett is a free agent in 2021, Joe Ross I think 2022 and at least 7 seasons for Trea Turner. So 20 combined seasons for one pitcher for 1 season plus 2 months. Oh yeah, makes total sense for the Nationals.

        This trade makes us better. That is the bottom line. I feel for Drew and I understand he is upset. But baseball is a team sport and a business. If he is worried about money, you would think he would make at least the same amount or next season as Clip did this season in his final year of arbitration. This trade is more making the team better than thinking Drew cant do the job. Drew needs to realize this.

        Based on his comments from last night, it is possible he could ask for a trade so he can close. I highly doubt we would trade him this season. Maybe in the off season but not now. Drew and the nationals need Drew to be the Drew he has been all season, just not in the closer role.

    • nats788 - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      It will hurt Storen’s wallet. Like the stat or not, Saves = $$ and Rizzo just took those saves away from Storen (while reinforcing the belief he can’t handle pressure). Any contract offer he gets will now reflect that

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:48 AM

        He has a good agent and he will go to a new team as the closer and they have track record but what will haunt him is that postseason record. He will get $10 million + per year but he is not an elite closer but I think with his new reportoire with that improved changeup, I think he was headed to elite until you wonder what he would do in the postseason if given another chance.

        I would be thrilled for the Nats to extend him now.

      • Section 222 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        He has 29 saves this year already, and more from 2012 and 2014. Maybe in arbitration this “demotion would hurt his value, but not on the open market. What will hurt his value is if he gets the reputation as a head case whose psyche is so tender that he can’t see what a great deal this was for his chances to pitch in a freakin’ World Series and win a ring.

  11. jeromeaquino - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    I have always felt badly about Storen and him being blamed for the loss against the Cards in 2012. The guy who really lost the game, and escaped blame, was Gio who was staked to a 6 – 0 lead. Textbook case on how not to pitch with the lead.

    • natsguy1 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      This x 100. People seem to have completely forgotten that there were 8 other innings in that game, and that it should have been a blowout. Gio totally escaped the blame there, in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen anyone ask him about it.

    • hokiepokster92 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      To be fair, the entire pitching staff is to blame for the NLDS Game 5 collapse. Every guy Davey brought in from the bullpen gave up a little bit of the lead. Davey yanking Gio sooner may not have made any difference.

  12. chapjim - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Closers don’t count for nuttin’ unless you have a lead.

  13. edbrinkman - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    This move was no surprise. Let’s all remember that the signs from Rizzo were there from the beginning of the season that Storen was NOT going to be the closer in the playoffs and that the Nats would trade for one about this time. Storen, a great guy and a good closer during the regular season, is not a playoff closer and anyone that has followed the Nats the last two playoff runs knows why.

  14. Hiram Hover - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    I get that people are upset for Drew, and no, I don’t particularly like Pap either (and I say this as a former Yankees fan).

    But for those who are criticizing the deal–what else would you have had Rizzo do?

    He could have traded for a more conventional 8th inning set up man and left the 9th to Drew. I’m guessing Rizzo at least checked in on such a deal, but it seemed pretty clear from the outset that he had his eyes set on a closer. He could have gone for Chapman or Kimbrel, but they would have cost more, and Drew would still get bumped (or becomes a part time closer, at best).

    This may not be the perfect deal, but it’s a deal that makes plenty of sense.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:09 AM

      +1

  15. iconicwoodencap - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    I really hope Drew has the “closer” mentality to stay tough when things aren’t going the way he wants. I hope he channels his anger into being the best 8th inning guy in baseball. If Storen pouts or craters then he isn’t the guy you want in a tough situation. 8th inning guys are vital and respected. How much did we love seeing Clip take the ball in the 8th?

    Maybe he can take a lesson from Roark, who didn’t pout and say he was “talking to my agent” after Sherzer was signed. He took the “demotion” from starter to pen with a “team-first” attitude. Or for that matter Rendon, Escobar, Werth, Espinosa (x5), RZim, all being flexible and playing positions they wouldn’t pick if they had their choice. We admire, but expect that kind of “team-first” embrace of their roles. Why is Storen so completely different?

    I like Drew and I hope I can continue to. If he puts his ego before the team, he’ll lose me fast. I mean, come on. They could be the best 8-9 in the league. Nothing to feel sorry for in that.

  16. scnatsfan - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:08 AM

    Everyone who says Storen hasn’t had playoff problems has their head in the sand. Twice he didn’t do his job and cost us huge games; not his fault alone but he choked. Assuming we make the playoffs again (I hope) what do you say to Rizzo if he does it a third time?

    • natsjackinfl - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:17 AM

      And his playoff ERA is above 8.00. I said above EIGHT POINT ZERO ZERO.

      Yes, I know. Small sample size. But it still is unacceptable.

      Hopefully, Drew will get the chance to improve it in this years playoffs as the set up man.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:09 AM

        2014 Drew faced 7 batters in the playoffs and gave up 4 hits.

        In 2012 he came in with a a 2 run lead in the 9th and couldn’t close it out.

        I was at the park for both of them. 2012 hurt more, I was boarding on morose for days,but after sitting through the 18 inning game I left with a feeling of resignation.

        Personally, Drew is not at anywhere near the top of the list as to who I want to see on the mound in a close save situation in the playoffs.

        Now, let’s get to the playoffs.

        GYFNG!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:39 AM

      The spin on Storen’s postseason is creative. I think his BLOWN Save rate is 67%

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:07 AM

      Everyone who says Storen hasn’t had playoff problems

      Has anyone actually said that? Sounds like a straw man.

      Drew clearly had some problems in a couple of key playoff games.

      The question is the predictive value of that record, given its tiny size and the anything can happen environment of the playoffs.

      • nats788 - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:46 AM

        You know who owns a 5.12 ERA in the playoffs? Clayton Kershaw. Over 51 innings. He clearly can’t be trusted in the playoffs either!

      • nats128 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:03 AM

        You are saying that with tongue in cheek and many Dodgers fans are concerned that he cant go deep in playoff games.

      • nats128 - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:39 AM

        you wrote that, now Kershaw was scratched for tonight

  17. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:10 AM

    Stated my feelings on this yesterday. What’s done is done. I will root for Pap to succeed like no other while he wears the Nats uniform…

    Really good to see Anthony and Jayson AND Ryan back in the line up last night. Now just need Span and SS back and are back at it!

    Btw – very very good article Mark Z. I normally only have time to skim thru the morning articles but this, I read all the way thru.

    • dcwx61 - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:24 AM

      +1

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:40 AM

      +2 – an exceptionally good article by Mark Z.

  18. topnat - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    On the human note I’ve been wondering if Fister may have some off field issues going on. Family perhaps. Watching him on the field he doesn’t have the bounce or gleam in his eyes he did last year. He seems subdued.

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:55 AM

      I’m guessing that if I were a pitcher who’s strength is a sinker, and I was in my walk year, and I was pitching for a team in a pennant race — that if I couldn’t get the sinker going then I would also seem subdued, and lose my bounce or eye-gleaming.

      Here’s hoping he gets that sinker going again — tonight!

      • masterfishkeeper - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:32 AM

        Agreed. Hard to know which is cause and which is effect. At least Fister’s velocity has been back up the last two starts. I’m optimistic that he’ll turn it around very soon, perhaps tonight.

  19. stoatva - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:22 AM

    Strange how much easier it is to be a fan of a crappy baseball team than a perennial contender.

    • scnatsfan - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:24 AM

      With expectations come broken hearts. A grass is greener kind of situation. I remember for years at the deadline hoping we’d trade our talent for something of value.

      • stoatva - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:31 AM

        Back when I was a very young Senators fan, every new DFA’d bozo who came into town was cause for renewed optimism. Good for a week or two, usually.

  20. coolhandbane - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    Here is another great article for everyone to read: http://www.federalbaseball.com/2015/7/29/9063647/jonathan-papelbon-a-great-addition-for-the-washington-nationals

    You have to wonder if we are going to trade for a corner OF/1st baseman before Friday. We can never know what will happen with Werth and Zimmy.

    • stoatva - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:35 AM

      Venable and Parra have been mentioned.

  21. JayB - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    This is going to be very interesting.

    If it does not work it will tell you everything you should have known about this group but could not see through your glass is full of red wine views. It is a real possibility that this clubhouse will spit the bit again and wine like it did with that last R. Soriano move. As I recall we had tears and melt downs and demotions and a full season of underachievement in 2013. If that happens Rizzo is to blame not for the move to bring in talent but for building a clubhouse that lets that happen.

    Rizzo could have made the move they all wanted for Clip and keep Storen closing. He did not do that because he correctly evaluated that that move did not give him the talent needed to win in the playoffs. Now he has that talent building but still needs move moves to get them to a WS winning team but if they go into a pout and lose 8 of 10 that is all on Rizzo for keeping a clubhouse for years that has time and time again proven they are weak and not focused on winning but rather liking each other.

    I like the move but will always remind Rizzo and fans that he could have had Chapman years ago and missed evaluated his talent. That said, this will close the door finally of Ian and Jason and Ryan and Drew are leaders and winners or losers who are nice guys.

    • therealjohnc - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:05 PM

      And I will continually remind you that Rizzo and the Nationals were the #2 bidder on Chapman, that they had a better sense of his worth than 28 other teams. And that the Nationals were willing to outbid all of the big market teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers and Red Sox to get him.

      It’s easy from the anonymous internet commenter’s perch of hindsight to play that game. The best bonus is that it works against everyone, because there’s no GM/team that is 100%. The only ones that never miss are the ones who don’t have the ability/responsibility to take a shot.

  22. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Weekly question – Where is Nate McLouth?

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:41 AM

      Weekly question #2 – does anyone care?

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:44 AM

        I do. And since you responded, then you must as well.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        I really don’t.

        At this point he is a sunk cost and a loss. And a punch line.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:41 AM

      In Vieira as he had a setback.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:46 AM

        Unfortunate. Was thinking about another LHB for the team… and keep remembering he is it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:53 AM

        A shame Adam Lind is too expensive.

    • veejh - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:51 AM

      I believe he’s counting his stacks of cash…..somewhere.

  23. bowdenball - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    I think the disappointment is about more than just feeling bad for Drew. Two other variables at play:

    1. Nats fans were by and large expecting Kimbrel or Chapman. Papelbon is good but he’s no Kimbrel or Chapman. And his insistence on closing means those guys are no long options. A new car is always great, but if you think you’re getting a Ferrari and you end up with a used Lexus you’re going to be disappointed every time.

    2. We gave a multiyear deal to an aging but still effective closer with declining K rates. We did this before and it didn’t end well.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:45 AM

      Bingo

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:01 AM

      True that — but we need to look at the bigger picture:

      The guy Paps is essentially bumping is a reliever with less talent — meaning: having Storen and Paps pitch the 8th and 9th, means our third best guy (Thornton? Janssen?) pitches the 7th, and that means we see less of, say, Barrett, or Roark, or Solis, etc.

      So, if Paps is taking away innings from, say, Barrett or Solis — that’s a rather significant net gain, right?

      • stoatva - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:09 AM

        You can’t sugarcoat the news for Drew but agree that it’s more of a vote of no confidence for the likes of Barrett and Treinen than a direct slam at Drew. Though it is that, as well.

      • bowdenball - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:12 AM

        Yes, absolutely, it’s a good move on paper not just because it solidifies the 8th and 9th but also because it bumps the weakest link from the bullpen. No question. I’m just saying that Nats’ fans disappointment isn’t only about Drew. Its also about not getting Kimbrel or Chapman, and to a lesser extent also about having been burned very recently by a very similar acquisition.

  24. natsguy - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:43 AM

    The team as configured (with injuries, recoveries, and age) is not very good. I hope this is not a subtraction by addition. You have to admit they would not be in 1st place in any other division.

    • stoatva - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:55 AM

      I think they’d be in the thick of things in any division other that the two Centrals.

  25. natsdial8 - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    NOTE to Nats: Do your jobs and earn your pay. This team is set up to win it all.

  26. scnatsfan - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    To those who wonder how hurt Drew is think about the 24 other guys on the roster who would be crushed if we went to the playoffs and he didn’t close things out again while Rizzo did nothing

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      It the Nats lose in the playoffs because a closer fails to do his job, Rizzo gets second guessed either way:

      Pap blows it–how could Rizzo have been so f@#king stupid to trade for him!

      Storen blows it–how could Rizzo have been so f@#king stupid to stick with him!

      The narratives have already been written. We just have to see how things actually turn out, so we know which one to take off the shelf.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:14 AM

        Rizzo has a lot riding on this.

      • texnat1 - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:35 AM

        I think that is a little bit of an overstatement, HH. If Paps blows a save, there will be a lot less second guessing than if Storen were to go out and repeat history a third time.

  27. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    Oh boy, MW on MLB Radio

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:03 AM

      So… Did he say anything of consequence?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:10 AM

        Most of it was great questions about Papelbon, Storen, and Harper. Same ole same ole on MW giving monotone answers. His personal comparisons of MW hitting behind Barry Bonds was interesting and how pre-game meetings from the other team has to be centered about how do we handle Harp but now they will have to figure out how to handle Rendon, Werth, RZim and Harp.

        Then Steve Phillips started talking about the great Joe Ross and asked MW what they would do with Joe when Strasburg comes back and MW said they haven’t discussed it. Steve Phillips suggested that they put him in the bullpen!!!!! MW would only say that was a possibility but he’d never pitched from the bullpen before.

        Bam! There’s a former GM saying what I’ve said for weeks. This guy has to continue to help this team and if he can show that he can do the 2008 version of David Price, you do it.

      • masterfishkeeper - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:27 AM

        I agree with you, Ghost, but the Nats have been very reluctant to use their young starters in the pen. They just don’t seem to think it is good for a pitcher’s development. I remember Earl Weaver saying a young pitcher should start in long relief before becoming an MLB starter.

  28. Whack-A-Mule - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    Mr. Rizzo has done the necessary thing. The Nats are not a playoff-calibre team with the (current) bullpen of the first 98 games of 2015. A patch-work acquisition of middle reliever(s) would not have mended it.
    If the bullpen becomes dominant, that will aid in overcoming our starting-pitching deficit vis-a-vis the Mets
    (yes, Clippard got that one right).

    There will be no wild-card team from the NL East. The only playoff team will be the division winner, so finishing ahead of New York is necessary (but not sufficient).
    In order to begin to be competitive with the likes of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and San Francisco (which at present we are not), an order-of-magnitude offensive improvement from the position players is required;
    enhanced offense, an improved starting rotation and a solidified bullpen will at least give the Nats a chance at making it to the NLCS this year.

  29. ArVAFan - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:52 AM

    Hmm. Let’s start with tonight: may we have an opportunity to see what Pap has for us on the field–and may he get his first save for us (unless, of course, we’re up 6 runs in the 9th and don’t need him. I’ll take that, too!).

    Still worried about the clubhouse, but that’s secondary. Maybe Pap will rise to the level of the DC fans instead of sink to the level of Phillies fans. We can hope.

  30. veejh - Jul 29, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    Hey Drew, suck it up, buttercup. We need you more than ever.

  31. Karl Kolchak - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    As a season ticket holder–the thought of being in the stands this October watching Storen blow it yet again filled me with dread.

    If you can criticize the Nats for anything here, it should be for a). not trading Storen last offseason if they knew they didn’t have confidence in him for the postseason, and b). putting together such a shaky, inexperienced bullpen that one injury (Stammen) could in effect jeopardize the season.

    The trade was necessary, but the bad situation that led to it was of the Nats’ own making.

    • janebeard - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:47 AM

      As a season ticket holder, the thought of seeing a known jerk (Papelbon) on the mound makes me ill. But as the Mets have made far better moves than we have, I don’t expect us to be playing October ball at all. And I say this as an inveterate “glass half full” person.I think this is a disastrous move.

      GIO lost the game in ’12, and so did bad umping. Storen gets all the blame, and unfairly so.

      We have no 6-7 inning pitching. I hope Drew can get it together to be lights out in the 8th, so he can go to another team that respects him more. And I say THAT as a real homer, and one who loves the players we’ve developed.

      Soriano was a bad move. This is worse.

  32. stoatva - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    We shall see what we shall see, pretty darned quick. Mets have Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard lined up for the weekend series in NYC.

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:14 AM

      Mets have Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard lined up for the weekend series in NYC.

      (Gulp) Yikes! Again?!

      And we’ll have . . . Gio, Ross, and JZ?

      • stoatva - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:24 AM

        Yep. I can live with that. Scherzer’s come up a little short in those Big Marquee Matchups the last couple of times.

        Getting three or more runs each game would also be a good strategy.

      • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:28 AM

        Getting three or more runs each game would also be a good strategy.

        Yep. (Not hitting into 1-out bases-loaded double plays would help with that 😉 )

    • therealjohnc - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:09 PM

      They have Harvey, deGrom and Syndegaard lined up for that series. Wait, that sounds familiar … how did that work out last time?

  33. adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    Hey all —

    In the 12 games since the All Star break, we had to face 9 truly outstanding pitchers:

    Kershaw
    Greinke
    Harvey
    deGrom
    Syndergaarde
    Liriano
    AJ Burnett
    Cole
    Jose Fernandez

    Most of that time we had 3+ position player starters missing.

    Over that time we lost *one* game from our lead over the Mets.

    Just sayin’

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:21 AM

      +162

      • nats128 - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:37 AM

        Its a long season. The Mets fanbase is feeling good and cocky. Im not in panic mode. Still over 60 games to play. Nats at one point were 8 games behind the Mets early in the season.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:45 AM

        Exactly. Short memories.

      • Serious Jammage - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:33 AM

        Thank you Wonk, this was a survive and advance type stretch the last month or so with everyone banged up. We’re still up on the Mets.

        We get Harvey, DeGrom, and Thor again this weekend in Queens. That will be a big, big series. Big to see if our core guys are (truly) healthy and can hit, and big to see how Papelbon and/or Drew respond if we need them.

        All that said — I think we’ll go 40-24 to end the season, beating the Mets by 5+ games. Then again I’m Mr. Positive. Go Nats.

  34. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    Not happy w/ getting Papelbon — because of who he is, not what. Someone described his personality as “gristly,” which seems understated. Also, I’m opposed in general to taking loyal servants and throwing them under the bus. Storen hasn’t been the most dynamic closer in the game but he’s been better than Chapman this year and his off-season “shortcomings” over-played. As someone else pointed out, closers are “nothing if you don’t have the lead.” Yesterday’s game illustrates. That loss was on Zimmermann and an offense that couldn’t seize opportunities, e.g., bases loaded and one out. If the Nats miss the playoffs this season — which is not what I expect — it will be the fault of the offense not the closer(s).

    Having said that, the eighth inning, and likely the seventh, should be secure. Once they get beyond Janssen and the occasional appearance by Thornton it’s pretty much a crap shoot. With the emphasis on the c___. I was hoping the hidden benefit in Rizzo’s trading strategy would be finally giving up on Barrett.

    The other good side of the deal is that it only cost Pivetta, who probably wasn’t better than the sixtth or seventh best pitching prospect in the system (Giolito, Ross, Fedde, Lopez — future closer, I think — and Cole/Voth).

    Notes from last night’s game: Zimmerman looks more svelte than we’ve seen him; Rendon looks more like Sandoval. One of them is not in game condition. Desmond resumes his chase of Bo Jackson’s single season record for Golden Sombreros. After the fourth swinging K he looked like an ostrich in search of a sandbox.

    In the offseason Storen should fetch a catcher.

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      If the Nats miss the playoffs this season — which is not what I expect — it will be the fault of the offense not the closer(s).

      Well — I think it would be both (had we not gotten Paps).

      Check out the following stats — the first number is team ERA of the Nats, and the second is team ERA of the NL.

      1st inning 3.12 4.36
      2nd inning 3.86 3.39
      3rd inning 2.76 3.33
      4th inning 4.96 4.13
      5th inning 3.49 4.08
      6th inning 4.32 4.10
      7th inning 3.40 3.74
      8th inning 3.49 3.32
      9th inning 3.42 3.39
      Ext inning 2.45 3.11

      What we see is that the Nats are worse than league average in the 8th and 9th innings — and remember that Drew has an ERA of 1.73 and Thornton has 1.85 — so that means the other guys have been hurting us (Roark, Treinen, Barrett are all over 4.00).

      (And Fister’s been hurting us, too — although there’s still time for him to get on track. I hope. He’s been missing his sinker since the first day he’s come back)

      As for hitting — despite the recent spate of all star pitchers we’ve faced, and the interminable injuries to Werth, RZ, and Span — the Nats are still 4th in the NL in runs scored per game.

  35. 3on2out - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:19 AM

    Papelbon’s insistence on being the 9th inning guy is a little off-putting. How about “I am thrilled to be going to a team that has a chance to go deep into October. I will be happy to do anything that will help my new team win.”

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:29 AM

      Yeah — that’s been a bit disconcerting to me, too. I’m not sure he needed to say that, as I think Rizzo/MW would have used him as closer anyway.

      • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:30 AM

        Come to think of it — all we have are other people’s words on what Paps was saying. Have we heard a peep out of Paps himself yet?

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:33 AM

        Wait a minute – we’re supposed to let him talk before judging what he says?

        Don’t go changing the rules on us….

      • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:54 AM

        Papelbon had every right to demand that he be traded to a team where he would be the closer. As a free agent, the Phillies got him by offering both a limited no-trade clause and a closer deal (incentives based on games finished). Why should he have to give up that leverage that was negotiated into his contract just to assuage the delicate psyche of a younger player who has not been in the league long enough to be able to negotiate such rights into his deal? Storen will have his chance to negotiate a “guaranteed closer” contract with the team of his choice when he becomes a FA after the 2016 season. All he has to do is continue to pitch well, and he’ll find that opportunity. But if he decides to pout and pitch poorly, all he has to do is look at Ian Desmond to see where that will get him.

      • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:42 AM

        Papelbon had every right to demand that he be traded to a team where he would be the closer.

        Good point. Well put.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      I’ve always said that sometimes the save is in the 8th inning. Rizzo just shortened the game for the Nats. This was a “must”.

      Now get back Span.

      • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        +4

        (two for Span, and one each for the 8th and 9th innings 😉 )

        (hmm, or should I have added 2+8+9?)

        OK, then:

        + 19

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:45 AM

        I like the math.

      • Doc - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        Amen bro. Good to have someone come in on the 9th, and stomp out the embers. But the fire was started earlier in the game.

        Papelbon is here because nobody get the fire under control in the 6th-8th. In the best of professional baseball worlds, Papelbon would be traded for as a setup guy. But the term ‘Closer’ seems to come with an aura of being a ‘legend in his own mind’ kind of mystique. Rizzo had to go with the fabricated mind set of one guy and downplay the fabricated mind set of the other guy.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:24 AM

        Treinen, Roark and Barrett and all rookies in the pen except Rivero have all been inconsistent. That is the reason Rizzo had to do this trade.

        Benoit by himself would have been underwhelming.

    • janebeard - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:50 AM

      EXACTLY! Why should OUR closer, who is producing better than anyone else in the league, have to suck it up and go in the 8th when this new guy, desperate to be away from the Phillies, gets his way? Good behavior not being rewarded here. RESULTS not being rewarded here. He’s already proving to be the jerk his reputation holds him to be. But our management is letting him be.

  36. Presidents Race Fan - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    Second time? Mark, you’re forgetting about the Brad Lidge experiment. This has been an almost annual thing.

    I’ll say this: Rizzo has been consistent. He does not commit to, or give up much for, relief pitchers. Arguably the most he’s ever given up for a reliever is the 1st round pick he used for Storen.

    So everybody just has to recognize that’s why we’ll never see a trade deadline deal for a Chapman or Kimbrel, but we will see Rizzo take relatively low-cost risks (short free agent contracts or minor trades) on guys like Perry, Michael Gonzalez, Lidge, Soriano, Thornton, Janssen, and now Papelbon. As Mark points out, he didn’t give up much for what he got. More often than not, it’s worked out, and when it doesn’t, he hasn’t given up the farm.

    Of course it kills me to see a class act like Drew have to give up this role he so clearly loves. I mean, he and Matt Williams have both really bought into this concept of the closer as rock star. As we just learned, he saves all of his save balls. He relishes the role so this has to kill him.

    Drew is a very smart and classy guy, so we have to expect (pray?) he’ll respond by performing. #IRWT

    P.S. – Think about NEXT year’s bullpen when Craig Stammen returns. That’s exciting.

  37. nats128 - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    Postseason is going to be small sample sizes for most pitchers. Storen has a postseason WHIP of 1.875 to go with Save percentage of .333 and ERA of 8.44. Nobody can predict the future and Storen could be nails or fails. It usually goes 1 way or the other.

    • therealjohnc - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:17 PM

      Because of the small sample size the stats are essentially meaningless. Ted Williams played seven post season games and was terrible. Does that mean that he wasn’t tough enough, that he melted under pressure? I’ll remind anyone that thinks so that Williams not only served in two wars, but was a combat pilot in Korea. Alex Rodriguez was good in the postseason until he go to NY, then was terrible, then in 2009 pretty much carried the Yankees to the WS (where Sabathia and Matsui finished the job).

      Not to jump on you for this, 128 – you correctly note that nobody can predict the future. I’m just adding that the results of a handful of games doesn’t help you – the fact that it’s the only data that we have doesn’t mean that it’s actually useful or predictive. There are too many variables, too much noise to find the signal. Not that it generally stops us from thinking we have all the answers.

      • nats128 - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:57 PM

        I said it. I know. But its there and is his stats.

  38. jfmii - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    A lot of great comments here. I have seen one or two that say Drew should take Roark’s attitude–“it is ok, I just want to help the team”. It is a great attitude, but then he goes out and lays a gigantic 2015 egg. I would rather Drew be pissed/hurt, then go out and be a lights-out set-up guy.

  39. scmargenau - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    After the fourth swinging K he looked like an ostrich in search of a sandbox.

    Lol! He did! Ian worries me. I’d like to,e too see trea to see how fast he acclaim ages to the majors. We may need him.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:51 AM

      Jose Fernandez can make anyone look lost. Let’s see tonight. Please Ian, see ball, hit ball.

  40. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 29, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    I continue to believe that the Nats will have a better bullpen with both Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen (even a pissed-off Drew Storen) — and without some of the RPs who have been at the bottom of the BP over the course of the season. If clubhouse chemistry (as some charaterize it) is so fragile that this significant addition will jeopardize the Nats’ playoff hopes, then those hopes were too fragile to begin with.

    • nats128 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM

      Storen needs to protect his value and pitch great.

  41. virginiascopist - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM

    As has been stated here, Papelbon makes our bullpen better, notably in that his acquisition eliminates/bumps the weakest link. However, if it puts Drew in the same funk he was in after the Soriano signing, then we’re pretty much back where we started.

  42. Section 222 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Good article. My only quibble is this paragraph:

    “And that’s what left so many people so uneasy Tuesday as details of this deal slowly trickled out before becoming official around nightfall. They’re uncomfortable with Papelbon’s reputation (whether that’s warranted or not) and they’re uncomfortable with the idea of Storen losing his job yet again despite not having done anything to merit a demotion.”

    Who are these “so many people”? If it’s fans or people who comment on this blog, who cares? If it’s sportswriters, they love controversy and intrigue, and again, who cares? If it’s players on other teams, they’re looking for an edge and way to get in the NL East favorite’s heads, and who cares?

    The only thing that matters is how Drew Storen and his teammates react. Drew’s buddy Tyler Clippard is gone so hopefully he won’t be spreading the word that Drew is moping. Maybe he’ll even call Drew and tell him that he was a setup guy, and it’s a blast, and he’s going to make a ton of money in free agency after this season. Maybe Casey Janssen will take him aside and remind him that he, too, was a very successful closer once, and he, too, has been “demoted” by this move, but he’s thrilled to be on a team that has a chance to get to the World Series, and Drew better get his act together and pitch like he’s capable of pitching for the good of the team.

    • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:19 AM

      ” They’re uncomfortable with Papelbon’s reputation (whether that’s warranted or not) and they’re uncomfortable with the idea of Storen losing his job yet again despite not having done anything to merit a demotion.”

      Someone needs to tell Zuckerman that Storen didn’t “lose his job.” He still has his job, his role has just changed. You’d think Zuckerman would understand that, seeing as how he did lose his own job at the Washington Times a few years ago. If instead of laying him off the Times had just decided they’d rather print his articles on the second page of the sports section instead of the first page, would Zuckerman have been whining about “losing his job”?

      You know how Storen would actually end up losing his job now? If he whines and pitches badly, that’s how. Just like he did the last time he didn’t lose his job when they signed Soriano. Hopefully Storen learned from that experience and won’t make the same mistake again.

  43. jd - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    A few observations:

    1) I think the trade was not so much an indictment of Storen but more an opportunity to add depth and push weaker arms out.

    2) To attach supposed statistics to Storen’s playoff career of about half a dozen games is ludicrous. NatsJack and Nats128 you are better than that. come on.

    3) Storen has proven over 4 years and over many games that he’s one of the best in the business.

    4) As Sam says, MW has no clue how to manage a bullpen, exhibit ‘A” last night: why on earth would you use your worst reliever in a still close game in the 7th inning? he does this time and again. When we are ahead he is completely mechanical and non analytical when we are behind he is clueless.

    5) Jordan Zimmermann has simply not been elite this year, he’s been very good but in battles with other teams good pitchers he has been out pitched. The sequence of pitches in the 6th inning to Gordon, Prado and Yelich was brutal. The pitches to Gordon and Prado would have been home runs by stronger hitters.

    6) It was nice to see RZim, Werth and Rendon in the lineup and it was especially nice that we had Clint Robinson available to come of the bench instead of Burris.

    7) We desperately need something from Fister tonight. What happened to the guy who was our no. 3 starter last year and that people wanted as a no. 2? the loss in velocity and the inability to induce ground balls is downright shocking.

    8) One bad game from Desmond in a week and the pitchforks were out in full force last night.

    9) Good for Rizzo for not gutting our very thin group of elite prospects. I hope he holds to this approach for a couple more days.

    10) If RZim is truly healthy there’s little need for additional bats. I wouldn’t mind Adam Lind but I wouldn’t over pay. I’d do Cole for Lind but that’s it.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:22 AM

      1. Spot on
      2. I think they put a disclaimer on those stats.
      3. Yes, for the regular season he’s been nails and this year he deserved to be an All-Star
      4. He used Solis to get one last look before he gets shipped back to AAA but I agree, wasn’t smart
      5. Jordan was elite in June. Other months he’s just been OK. Still won’t win scoring just 1 run
      6. +25
      7. You can say that again
      8. I ignored. Who complains how an Ace makes you look. Credit to the pitchers for those GIDPs too. Filth thrown.
      9. Exactly. Wrote that below
      10. Agreed on that. Cole for Lind would be a nice deal but if RZim is healthy and productive there’s no room for Lind on a NL team

      • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:47 AM

        Re #7 (Fister)

        As somebody else wrote way up above in this thread — at least Fister is pitching in a giant cavern, where even Haren fares well.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:37 AM

      On #4, I think MW is really trying to use his whole bullpen, so he doesn’t wear anyone out. He tries to balance out the workload. Might be the best approach for a 162 game season.

      • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:20 PM

        Good point. I tend to agree. It’s a long season, and starters have been averaging 6 innings per start (which is about average for the NL)

      • therealjohnc - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:28 PM

        I think you may be on to something there. I recall that an analysis was posted on Fangraphs last year at the end of the season that showed that not only did the Nats have a good bullpen, but that it was a well-rested bullpen with no one overtaxed/overused at the end of the 162 game marathon.

  44. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    Rizzo deserves applause for what he pulled off. He got the 3rd best closer in the game and got the Phillies to pay the remainder of his 2015 contract and then took that 2016 “performance option” and turned it into a 2016 guarantee for $11 million which is about the going rate for a shutdown closer, and the best part was Rizzo only gave up Nick Pivetta.

    All other trades would have drained 2 Top Prospects from the system and some were saying to trade Joe Ross straight up. Rizzo was smarter than that. Amaro was strong-armed into a trade because Papelbon was demanding a trade and it was becoming a team issue, and while the Phillies got a decent prospect, chances are Pivetta won’t be a star in the Majors.

    The downside is Storen has hurt feelings and it’s just another chapter in life isn’t fair but when you’re getting paid $5.6 million we humbly request you suck it up.

    • rayvil01 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:35 AM

      Excellent synopsis.

      Saw Keith Law claiming this was only a “Minor Bullpen improvement.” He praised Pivetta to the ceiling. He really has more faith in these second-tier pitching prospects than most. Was harder on the Mets yesterday for the Clippard deal. But, the basics were still that they gave too much.

      Pap’s splits against Lefties is better than Drew. Drew has a .303 BA by Lefties, Pap is .269. Not “Lights Out” but definitely better.

      • Section 222 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:54 AM

        I’d love to see an analysis of Keith Law’s writing over the years. How many of the prospects he’s praised turn out to be as good as he thinks? The other thing people have to remember is that there are only 5 starter spots in the rotation and 7 bullpen spots. Again, I repeat: Nate Karns, Robbie Ray, Alex Meyer. None have been busts, but where exactly were they going to pitch given how our pitching staff shakes out?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:20 AM

        Karns needed further development and the Rays have done a fine job with him. Ray has been very inconsistent and both were better prospects than Pivetta who has a ceiling of a #4. Alex Meyer even at his Draft was said to be a big arm who couldn’t repeat his mechanics and some thought his ceiling was as a closer if he couldn’t have repeatable mechanics.

        Karns returned Felipe Rivero and Lobaton. If Rivero who many see as one of the filthiest lefties in the game then the Nats did great.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:30 PM

        Actually Alex Meyer has flirted with “bust.” He’s already been converted to reliever, and has serious control issues.

      • Section 222 - Jul 29, 2015 at 3:14 PM

        trjc, I wonder what Keith Law thought of the Span trade at the time. I think lots of his stuff is behind a pay wall, so not sure a google search will be helpful in finding out.

    • Danny - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:35 AM

      I think the only person who wanted to trade Ross was Rintin or w.e his name is and his opinion means very little.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:41 AM

        Yes the only one here and then you have Bowden who also said it and supposedly Loadvero said send Ross and Turner for Chapman or Kimbrel.

    • jfmii - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:50 AM

      I am worried about Papelbon’s age, and in that context, I would disagree that he is third best in the game. But agree with you and everyone who asserts this is a huge overall improvement to a beleaguered pen

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:52 AM

        His numbers are better than 2013 and 2014. As Mariano showed, you take care of your body and relievers have a longer shelf life.

        Am I concerned yes, but it’s a year and 2 months deal and better than the Soriano deal.

  45. sunshinebobby - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:48 AM

    If by some process, this leads to fewer innings for Aaron “to the backstop on the fly” Barrett, count me in.

    But Pap is a cancer in the clubhouse. The first time Drew holds a game in the eighth only for P’bum to blow it in the ninth, watch the hits sit the fan.

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:24 PM

      Is he? I mean, he was when he was in Phillie, but that’s because he signed with a 102-win team, and then had to play for years for a last-place team. Eventually, it got to him. Some of his comments there were quite understandable (e.g., when good players exercised their no-trade clauses, he wondered out loud why a good player wouldn’t want to leave for a better team). In any event, I think he’s the all time leader in save for Phillie.

      I’d also note that bad stuff was said about Esco (and Uggla?) — sometimes a change of scenery (and a change of teammates) is all that’s needed.

  46. mnmindc - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    Lots of great comments on this. On paper, this could be a good move. But I do feel bad for Drew. Because this isn’t just about hurt feelings for him. It’s about business. Arbitration salaries for relievers are, for better or worse, impacted by save totals. Free agent deals may also be impacted by save totals. So it’s possible Drew’s current salary may already be depressed because of the Soriano adventure and it could potentially be depressed going forward because of the Papelbon move. Now the best way for him to protect himself financially is to pitch lights-out whatever inning he comes in, and I hope he’s able to do that.

    As a fan, I find it hard to root for guys that seem unlikeable. Papelbon absolutely seems that way. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise though so will give it some time. He certainly has a lot of great experience. Maybe he’ll be good for the many young relievers on the team.

    Last unrelated thought. I know folks are frustrated with the pitchers’ bunting failures. I’m wondering if the fact they’ve been facing great pitchers is a part of that… I’m sure bunting a Fernandez, DeGrom, Harvey etc fastball isn’t as easy as it seems!

    • Section 222 - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:57 AM

      On the question of Drew’s salary, you assume that he would have been a successful closer in 2013 if Soriano hadn’t been signed. Maybe so, but his mechanical issues were pretty bad, and the meltdown in Game 5 might have taken the same toll as the Soriano signing. We’ll never know, but there’s a decent chance he would have charted the same course to Syracuse to get his act together and would have returned to be the setup guy behind Clip as closer.

  47. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    The Mets knew on Monday that Mejia had tested positive for PEDs which made the Clippard deal a must.

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:28 PM

      Wow.

      Question on Mejia — how could he do that? I mean, surely he knows that he was going to be constantly monitored and tested after the first suspension. It’s not like PEDs are addictive like heroin or vicodin or whatever.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:31 PM

        He thinks he would get away with it like Alex Rodriguez. You look at players who were busted for PEDs and then return and presumably clean and we’re to believe that players like Nelson Cruz, Peralta and A-Rod can improve? Color me skeptical.

      • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:37 PM

        He thinks he would get away with it like Alex Rodriguez.

        OK, I guess that makes some sense — from his point of view. Perhaps his supplier told him “this is a version that they can’t yet detect” . . .

    • letswin3 - Jul 29, 2015 at 1:46 PM

      Zackly … that was my first thought too when I heard that he was busted again.

  48. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    Bryce Harper is thrilled that the Nats acquired Papelbon. Bryce was a career 1 for 10 against Paps.

  49. Nats Fan Zee - Jul 29, 2015 at 10:59 AM

    So the BP is not fixed, what do you do before the 8th? We had three problems; 1) 8th inning guy (Rizzo generated) 2) our long relief guy out with injury and no replacement (this still is not fixed) 3) the various discount gaggle of BP acquired or developed have not worked out.

    Could have fixed the 8th inning problem with Clip and kept him away from the team that’s chasing is. Bottom line, if this works out, Rizzo is a genius… If it does not…..

    I don’t like it myself but I’m the first to admit running a MLB team is not my strength.

    • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:30 AM

      What do you do before the 8th now? That’s obvious. Janssen, Thornton, Carpenter when he gets back. That’s loads better than Barrett, Treinen, Solis and the like in the 7th!

      • therealjohnc - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:35 PM

        Rizzo got more time of a better pitcher for less of a prospect than the Mets paid for Clippard, and got Papelbon to renegotiate his salary to make it much more manageable. That’s a GM win in spades.

        natnatsnatswoo is also quite correct that what this does for innings before the 8th is allow better pitchers to be used in that role. In fact, that’s where the primary upgrade of this move comes. MW now has more leeway to use Rivero, Thornton, Janssen and Carpenter not just to hold leads but to keep deficits manageable and allow comebacks in the mid/late innings. Where the Nats bullpen has struggled is not in the protecting of leads so much as the managing of deficits. When Treinen, Barrett, Solis (and before them Martin and others) have really struggled is in the thankless Stammen role of keeping the Nats close enough to steal games.

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      Nats pitchers average 6 innings.

      So, for an average game ;-), with Storen and Paps covering the 8th and 9th, you just need to cover the 7th.

      Thornton has terrific stats this year (ERA under 2.00). Janssen has potential. Possibly Carpenter. Rivera if there are lefties.

      This is hugely better than what we had two days ago.

      (Hugely is a word, right? 😉 )

  50. philipd763 - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    If Storen is pouting, then that tells a lot about him as a person. He has to realize he blew up, not once, but twice in two different playoffs. Yes, Storen has put up some good closer stats over the first half of this year but his recent saves have been sloppy. That’s the pattern Soriano had over the first half last year and he eventually imploded. That was a good acquisition by Rizzo and, better yet, he gave up very little.

    • micksback1 - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:11 PM

      I think Drew is more of a pro than pap in my book

  51. SkinCapWizNat - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:11 AM

    Isn’t missing half our starting lineup for part of the season (for some it’s the majority) a blessing in disguise? Yes we have not been good recently, and we have not been consistent all season. And yes the Mets are right there in the rear view. But instead of having endured the brutality of a 162 game season come playoff time, guys like Werth, Zimm, Rendon, hell even Stras, will still be running on a half tank of gas while everyone else is close to empty. Those guys should still be pretty fresh, and assuming they heat up within the next few weeks they might be in full stride by september/october. I’m sure older guys like Werth and Zimm need the extra rest, and they’ve got it. This might actually prove fruitful for us. I absolutely hate that we bit the injury bug, and I would never wish injury on any player especially on my favorite team, but maybe this is a good thing for the short term future of our ball club.

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:32 PM

      What you write is certainly plausible. It certainly increases the chances of having a relatively fresh Werth and JZ in October.

  52. chiefwj - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:26 AM

    Over the course of his career, Storen has pronounced differences v RHB & LHB.

    Career: 208/275/305 v. RHB, 252/302/341 v, LHB

    Splits are even bigger last two years:

    2014: 184/254/246 v. RHB, 253/274/319 v. LHB
    2015: 089/177/161 v. RHB, 303/341/316 v. LHB.

    Might be a SSS this year, but he has pitched to more LHB than RHB, which suggests that opposing managers are pinch-hitting whenever they have the opportunity. While there are some LHB that he’s been very successful against (notably Freddie Freeman), good LH power hitters have had some some success against him (Ryan Howard, Lucas Duda). Think you would see Andre Either or Matt Adams (if he’s back) off the bench against him in October?

    MW got a lot of criticism here for not using match-ups against Sandoval in Game 2 last year and not using Thornton. Right or wrong, he’s more likely to change his approach in an 8th inning situation than the 9th.

    • Section 222 - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:36 AM

      Really good point. With Thornton and Rivero, MW has two really good lefty options for the 7th and 8th. Drew will get some help when he needs it. Maybe MW will even be really adventurous and send out Rivero to face a big lefty bat to lead off the 9th and then bring in Pap for the save.

    • letswin3 - Jul 29, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      Good thinking, Chief. The eighth inning has now become a place where strategy can be called upon, while fully understanding that there is a quality reserve factor available … matchups have become a reality for the Nat’s … now let’s see if MW can figure out the math.

  53. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:33 AM

    Latos and Morse to the Dodgers

    • jd - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:42 AM

      for what?

      Latos is a nice upgrade over what they have. Morse a good bench bat.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:46 AM

        I got the bite and I think I beat Ken Rosenthal by a few minutes. It was for some Minor League players from what I understand.

      • chiefwj - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:48 AM

        For prospects and picking up Morse’s salary. Doubt he’ll see much time in field.

        Latos has been excellent since he’s been off the DL, with an uptick in his fastball.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:50 AM

        Definitely a salary dump as Morse is signed for 2016 also.

    • jfmii - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:50 AM

      Whoa.

      Always nice to have your up-to-the-minute news, Ghost of Steve M.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:53 AM

        I thought I would be hours ahead on this. Andrew Friedman put this together quickly. Could signal they aren’t getting Hamels but then again Latos could be a #4 or #5 if they get Hamels.

    • adcwonk - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:35 PM

      Whoa — I hope they don’t end up with both Latos and Hamels.

      Any word on Hamels? (I see the Phils moved his start from Thrs to Friday, in case he’s traded by then)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:41 PM

        Yep, he’s going to be traded and I hope the Rangers get him.

  54. nats128 - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    Mike Morse traded to the Dodgers.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 29, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Can they trade Prado in the next few minutes?

  55. micksback1 - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:09 PM

    I am concerned about Pap in terms of his clubhouse personality. I have a problem with any player requiring that he will not join a team unless he is the closer, bats cleanup, etc… Pap better be perfect in my book in order for this to make sense to me. I feel Drew was stabbed in the back and why can’t Pap be the 8th inning guy??

    Last night’s DP balls by Werth and Escobar really stunk. One run verse Marlins, really Nats???

    • therealjohnc - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:38 PM

      One run versus Jose Fernandez pitching in a ballpark where he has never lost. He wasn’t quite on his game last night, but he was still very good. Add that Jordan Zimmermann and the Nats also got the short end of the BABIP stick and yes, really. It happens.

    • letswin3 - Jul 29, 2015 at 1:23 PM

      Paps requirement that he be a closer with the team trading for him was BEFORE the Nats made his 2015 “vesting option” academic by signing him for 2016 at an agreed upon salary. He needed to get those final inning numbers up to insure the vesting … so Rizzo say’s “no problem, how bout we just extend you for another year right now?” So Pap’s “demand” was reasonable in light of his concern for vesting. Has he done other stuff that we should consider less than mature? Sure. But I’m fairly confident that Rizzo and the existing veteran players (Werth, Desmond, Zim) can provide “guidance” for the fiery new guy. I’m on board with the trade, since the Nat’s are a much better team today than they were yesterday. And if bullpen strength is key to postseason success (see Royals), the Nats have expanded their potential for fall celebrations.

  56. micksback1 - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:10 PM

    Why did not MW go with Thornton or Rivero last night instead of Solis? Am I missing something?

    • JayB - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:53 PM

      MW is not a good manager not sure how u missed that

  57. Candide - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    Ignorant question: If the Phils are paying most of Papelbon’s salary, how is this a salary dump for them? Does it mean that they shell out the money, but it doesn’t count towards the team’s salary for purposes of luxury tax et. al.?

    • therealjohnc - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:39 PM

      As I understand it, they’re paying most/all of his salary the remainder of 2015. Papelbon’s 2016 salary is no longer the Phillies’ problem.

  58. SkinCapWizNat - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    Hamels to Rangers

    • micksback1 - Jul 29, 2015 at 12:58 PM

      whew, Thank goodness, did not want him in NL

  59. section al cushion 2 - Jul 29, 2015 at 4:05 PM

    After an initial bad reaction to the trade, I think I’ve come to terms with what this means for the team and I think it will be a good thing. Storen is a professional and will take it in stride. My only remaining concern is Pap’s ability to behave appropriately. ‘Crotch-grabbing’ at the Nats fans will not be well-tolerated.

  60. Pete "Hit 'n Run" Wood - Jul 30, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    Getting Paps for nothing much doesn’t mean Rizzo is brilliant. It shows everyone what we already know, the Phillies wanted him gone! So what does Mr. nice guy and teammate do after he bumps Storen? He says to Fister,
    I want your number on my jersey, not yours! Forget Natitude, this jerk has “Papeltude.” Well it is early today; let’s see who he can insult today and bolster team morale!

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