It wasn’t matter of if, it was a matter of when and who the Nats would get in return for Drew Storen. Trading Storen was the only guaranteed transaction for the Nats this offseason. His time here had expired. 2016 Drew Storen personified The Guy Who Needs A Change of Scenery.
But before we get to Storen, let’s look at the other end of the trade. The Nats acquired Ben Revere from the Blue Jays, filling a hole in the outfield opened up when Denard Span left via free agency.
Revere is a certified pest. He has no power whatsoever (4 career home runs in 6 six seasons), but he gets on base (.342 OBP last season), rarely strikes out (averaging fewer than 50 per season the last 5 seasons), and he’s aggressive on the basepaths (49 SBs in 2014). Mike Rizzo choosing to target Revere tells us a few things about the 2016 Nationals.
Whether intentional or not, this team is starting to form in the image of new manager Dusty Baker. Baker a few months ago, quite controversially, said he’d like more “speed” which is more likely to come from “African-Americans.” Even if the acquisition of Revere is a coincidence, it signals more shifting towards the style of play favored by Baker. Daniel Murphy, another high contact, high speed player, signed with the Nats this week to play 2B. The high strikeout Ian Desmond will depart and may be eventually replaced this year by the speedy Trea Turner. The Nationals lineup will not only be different this year, it’ll play different. Contact. Speed. Baserunning. The 2016 Nats might be look less like the Nats and more like the Royals, who crafted a World Series team out of players built in the Ben Revere mold. It’ll be interesting to see how this new approach fits with the holdovers in the Nats lineup.
This trade also probably means the Nats are done acquiring outfielders this offseason. Assuming Revere in penciled in to CF, Michael Taylor moves to a reserve role, which is probably appropriate this stage of his career. Taylor will find plenty of at bats, occasionally platooning with the left-handed Revere in CF and filling in for Jayson Werth, who has often needed a sub the past few seasons. With Murphy also capable of playing outfield, this team has plenty of OF depth. The Storen/Revere trade also probably eliminates the likelihood, however small, of the Nationals jumping in to acquire one of the few elite free agent outfielders still on the market, Juston Upton, Chris Davis, or Yoenis Cespedes. Personally, I was holding out hope for a big free agent signing, but it was always a longshot considering the Nats current finances.
Finally, this trade closes the book on perhaps the most aggravating and tragic figure in Nationals history. Storen had a few highs in DC, but nobody had lower lows. Storen won’t be remembered for his 95 saves in Washington; he’ll be remembered for the ones he didn’t get in the playoffs. Most notably, of course, was his meltdown in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS, when all he needed was one strike to win the first postseason series in Nationals history. Heartbreakingly, I remember standing in Nationals Park only two years later when Storen again failed to close out an opponent, this time the Giants in Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS.
It wasn’t the athletic failures, however, that will give Storen a deserved level of DC Sports ignominy. It’s the mental failures that make his run DC so ultimately disappointing. When the Nats replaced Storen with Rafael Soriano as closer before the 2013 season, Storen could have excelled in his new setup role. Instead, he let the “demotion” go to head until the Nats had no choice but to actually demote him to AAA. Again, last season when the Nats acquired Jonathan Papelbon, Storen could have chosen to embrace the setup job for the good of the team. Instead, he chose make it clear through the media how unhappy he was with the trade. Storen’s performance on the mound again suffered. His struggles culminated in a truly sad moment: a complete mental breakdown against the Mets in a critical game last September. Storen physically couldn’t throw a strike as he walked the bases loaded and then tying run, blowing a commanding 7-1 lead. It was clear that day Storen’s troubles weren’t physical. Whatever doubts we had about Storen’s emotional fragility were eliminated.
But that’s over now. Storen gets a new opportunity with a 2015 playoff team. If Storen again sees the mound in a deciding moment in a playoff game next season, I’ll be very curious to see if his considerable physical ability wins out over his mental frailty. Thankfully, however, that’s somebody else’s problem.