Oct 30, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2016: 28
How acquired: 1st round pick, 2009 draft
MLB service time: 5 years, 140 days
2015 salary+bonuses: $5.7 million
Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2017
2015 stats: 58 G, 55 IP, 45 H, 23 R, 21 ER, 4 HR, 16 BB, 67 K, 1.109 WHIP, 29 SV, 5 BS, 2-2, 3.44 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 0.7 WAR
Quotable: “This last month and the struggles, that’s not me. I’ve had some tough times, but I’ve also come through and dealt with frustrating times and adversity and gotten through it better. I look forward to it being the same this time.” — Drew Storen, Sept. 17
2015 analysis: Drew Storen entered the season as the Nationals’ unquestioned closer, and over the ensuing four months he did nothing to suggest he didn’t deserve to remain in that role. On July 29, he owned a 1.73 ERA, 29 saves in 31 attempts and a ridiculously low .521 opponents’ OPS.
Then the Nationals made their big trade deadline acquisition, getting Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, and suddenly Storen was bumped to a setup role. Despite his obvious frustration with what he perceived as a demotion, the right-hander initially was effective pitching the eighth inning. He retired the first 12 batters he faced after the Papelbon trade, six via strikeout.
But then came a grand slam surrendered to Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez on August 7, and everything fell apart after that. Storen wound up with a 9.22 ERA over his final 15 appearances, blowing a late lead three times and taking the loss in another game. Then, adding injury to insult, he fractured his thumb when he slammed it against his locker after a particularly difficult loss to the Mets on Sept. 9 and didn’t pitch again before season’s end.
2016 outlook: This might be the most fascinating personnel decision the Nationals face this winter. Given the way things played out following the Papelbon trade — this on the heels of the Rafael Soriano signing in 2013 — Storen might well have seen his time in D.C. come to an end. Fair or unfair, he has no reason to believe the Nationals trust him to close again. At this point, a change of scenery might be necessary.
What, though, can the Nats reasonably expect if they dangle Storen in a trade offer? He’s entering his walk year, he stands to make good money via the arbitration process and he now has melted down twice after his team acquired another closer to take his job. Opposing teams will know all of this before ever engaging in trade discussions.
Is there a chance Storen could remain in Washington in 2016? Sure, though he may always be looking over his shoulder, waiting for another vote of no confidence in him. If he can overcome all this and recapture his top form again, all credit to the right-hander.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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