Blue Jays fans are hailing the move to acquire Drew Storen from the Nationals. But did Ross Atkins get a closer? Or a set-up man?
The united fury that surrounded the Mark Shapiro regime’s lack of action to improve a Blue Jays team that was so tantalizingly close to a championship last year turned to rejoicing in the wake of an actual transaction to bring in a player who Blue Jays fans didn’t already have an opinion on (Sorry J.A. Happ). The trade that brought reliever Drew Storen to the team from the Nationals in exchange for deadline pickup Ben Revere has been lauded as a great trade for both teams. Storen is definitely hitting all the right notes with his new fan base. His bio already celebrates his inherited music taste as he is “apparently now a Drake fan,” and he already knows who holds the true power in the GTA’s municipal government:
I’m incredibly excited to be headed to Toronto. Heard so many great things, but have one question, when do I get to meet @norm?
— Drew Storen (@DrewStoren) January 9, 2016
Storen’s acquisition does a few things for Toronto’s pitching staff. One, Storen is a personality. He’s the man who put a payphone in the Nationals’ bullpen. He joked when he got the call from GM Mike Rizzo “he wasn’t calling to wish me a Happy New Year.” He is quick on the draw with the chocolate syrup. He’s a much better influence than his Nationals sparring partner and fellow trade target Jonathan Papelbon. Storen will lighten the mood in the bullpen and not be putting hands on Josh Donaldson.
Two, Storen brings versatility to the pitching staff in more ways than one. His presence means Aaron Sanchez goes being an absolute necessity in the bullpen. Sanchez can attempt to crack the rotation in the spring, and if he doesn’t get the slot (which would be the prudent move for this season), he becomes part of an impressive quartet in the pen with Storen, Roberto Osuna and Brett Cecil.
Storen also brings an unusual repertoire of pitches for a relief pitcher. While serving primarily as a fastball-slider dealer, with the four-seamer reaching 95 mph and a slider on par with that of Jose Fernandez, Storen also has the ability to mix in a sinker that’s just a hair below his normal fastball’s velocity and a change-up that still reaches 88 mph on the gun. Being able to throw four pitchers results in a lot of guesswork for hitters late in the game, and it’s resulted in ground balls at a 45% clip for his career. With the vacuum cleaner defense behind him, Storen’s arsenal will result in a lot of easy ground outs. If they hit the ball. Storen’s 11.0 K/9 last season was the highest of his career.
Finally, not only does Storen’s presence give Sanchez a choice in which part of the pitching staff he’s in, Storen also opens the door for Osuna to begin transitioning as well. It’s a known fact that both the Blue Jays’ two stud relievers last year were being ticketed for the rotation at some point. The question is when does Osuna’s transition begin? Does Toronto give the closer’s role to Storen immediately or use him to set up the almost 21-year-old fireballer?
The career splits suggest that Storen would be more comfortable closing games. In save situations during his six-year career, Storen has held opponents to a 2.29 ERA and a batting average that only Jonathan Diaz would be proud of, .208. In non-save situations though, the ERA rises a full run and a half (3.84) and most modern hitters would be happy with the .250 batting average that comes with it. Osuna actually held opponents to a lower batting average in non-save situations (.180 vs. .205 in save situations), and his overall effectiveness throughout the game might be best served in a role that’s not tethered to the 9th inning. Giving Storen the 9th inning defines his role, a role that he likes, and makes the Blue Jays bullpen more unpredictable with Osuna walking out at any time.
The big issue with Storen however is that he is the relief version of David Price. He’s not been able to perform in October. Both times the Nationals made the playoffs, he struggled to hold his opponents in check. The spectacular blow-up in Game 5 in 2012, when the Cardinals turned a 7-5 deficit into a 9-7 clinching victory is the defining moment of his career thus far. He also relieved Jordan Zimmerman in 2014 against the Giants and turned Game 2 from a shutout into a marathon, giving up the tying run in the ninth and making Pablo Sandoval a lot of money in the process. It’s the reason the Nationals felt the need to bring in Papelbon last year. Now older and wiser, Storen has to be chomping at the bit to prove he’s put those struggles behind him.
The first few days of Storen’s tenure have been rosy. Shapiro and Atkins have proven they will do more than pinch Rogers’ pennies. Fans have something tangible to point to as improvement. They also get a player who feels their pain as a common man trying to keep his spot in life and on the airplane.
Meanwhile I’m low brim lid, head down game facing my phone to preserve the middle seat.
— Drew Storen (@DrewStoren) January 11, 2016
While it hurts to lose Revere’s speed (which Dalton Pompey should be able to replace), Storen’s late game heat and movement is a welcome addition for a team that let the Royals come back on them multiple times in the playoffs. Ask Osuna how important a late game strikeout can be. He couldn’t get Lorenzo Cain to chase. Storen gives the Blue Jays an arm that can fittingly end games.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III, according to CC BY-SA 2.0
Andrews has been immersed in sports from a young age, since she could read Jr. Jays comics that filtered into the backwoods of Northern Nova Scotia. The Canadian has been blogging about sports since high school, writing on FOX Sports.com’s blogs , her independent Tailpipe Sports blog and Jays Journal prior to joining JFTC. The 30 year old has been with Jays From the Couch since its humble beginnings, and continues to contribute while forging a career in the sports journalism industry. She brings a discerning eye, a smoking keyboard, and a brain that made Jeopardy! briefly rethink letting Canadians onto their program. She will talk about all sports, most Nintendo games, and trans issues for way too long if you give her an opening.