Analysis: Jonathan Papelbon traded to the Nationals

Many of you hate this trade. I understand. You hate Papelbon and don’t want to root for him. You like Drew Storen and hate the fact that Papelbon bumped him to the 8th inning.

But this is a good trade for the Nationals and you should be happy. This makes them a better team today than they were yesterday, and the price was reasonable.

First things first, Drew Storen will be fine. He’s a pro. He was a good pitcher last season in a setup role and he will be again. This isn’t a punishment for Drew. This is simply a move to make the Nats a stronger team. And no, Storen won’t be traded this season. This team needs him. In fact, this trade is more about gaining Storen as a setup man as much as it’s about gaining Papelbon to close.

Drew Storen did an excellent job as closer. But the Nationals needed help getting to the closer–getting to the 9th inning. After trading Tyler Clippard in the off-season, there was a hole on this roster that was never properly filled. Blake Trienen and Aaron Barrett could have emerged as valuable set setup men this season, but they didn’t. Several pitchers–Matt Thornton, Felipe Rivero, and even Casey Janssen–have done well lately. But the Nats are looking to win the World Series. There’s no better formula than a lights out bullpen. The Kansas City Royals last season were unstoppable in the playoffs because they had three elite relievers for the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. The Nats are now in an enviable position to have to Storen pitch the 8th and Papelbon the 9th. With Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmerman set to start games 1 and 2 of a playoff series, the Nats look like they finally have a complete pitching staff.

Nationals fans watched Tyler Clippard get traded from Oakland to the Mets yesterday. The sentimental move would have been for the Nats to trade for Clippard and give him his old role in the 8th inning. Rizzo set his sights higher. There were three elite closers available-Papelbon, Kimbrel, and Chapman-and Rizzo kicked the tires on all of them. In the end he chose the best reliever he could for the most reasonable price.  For the trade itself, it has all the Rizzo hallmarks. He not only filled a critical need, he dealt from strength and preserved his organization’s best assets. Lucas Giolito, AJ Cole, Erick Fedde, Joe Ross and Reynaldo Lopez–the Nats 5 best starting pitching prospects–stay put. Nick Pivetta–the AA pitcher traded to Philadelphia–may turn into a fine pitcher, but this is a loss the Nats can afford.

Importantly, Papelbon will stay with the Nationals through 2016. He’s not a half season rental. Storen may be traded this offseason, but right now he’s locking down the 8th inning. For a team that struggled to get to its closer at times this season, that’s a great thing.

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