What To Expect From Drew Storen
Storen had what has been described as a tumultuous career with the Nats, but had what was arguably one of this best seasons with the club in 2015, with a slider that featured more horizontal movement leading the way. He saved 29 games in 31 opportunities for the Nats last year, but lost the closer’s role when Washington picked up Jonathan Papelbon in a mid-season trade. Storen’s season and tenure as a Nat ended when he slammed his locker door shut after a rough outing in September, breaking his thumb in the process.
Revere was added to the Toronto lineup in the flurry of deals that former GM Alex Anthopoulos made last July. Installed in the lead off spot a few weeks afer arriving, Revere posted a career-high .354 OBP, and while he was an upgrade over the out-of-place Chris Colabello in left field, there’s no mistaking him for a Gold Glove candidate. Just the same, he helps fill a need for some speed in the Washington outfield, and Toronto can now let Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey battle for the left field spot in the Blue Jay lineup.
Storen will be reunited in Toronto with Special Assistant to the GM Dana Brown, who drafted Storen when he was Washington’s scouting director in 2010. His impending free agency in 2017, and his recent volatility made him tradeable – at least, more so than Papelbon – but he fills an important hole in the back end of Toronto’s bullpen. The Blue Jays are now free to allow one or both of Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez to be stretched out in spring training to vie for a spot in the starting rotation, with the bullpen as a fallback option. Blue Jays fans may decry the current version of Toronto’s relief corps, but this facet of the club will likely be vastly improved over the version that started the 2014 campaign (and forced much of Anthopoulos’ dealing in July), and it’s at least as good as the outfit that finished the year with the addition of Storen.
As for what to expect from Storen for 2016, that’s hard to say at the moment. As much as Osuna has the command and mix of pitches that would make him an ideal starter, it’s hard to overlook his dominance once he was installed as the closer in June. Brett Cecil, after missing almost all of spring training, got off to a slow start, but had one of his finest seasons. And even Sanchez, who showed some promise as a starter in May before being sidelined by an injury that kept him out of a month and necessitated his move back to the pen upon his return in July, profiles as an above average bullpen arm when his repertoire is pared down to two pitches. Storen could set up, or he could slide into the closer’s role. One thing Manager John Gibbons demonstrated last year was that he wasn’t afraid to use his best reliever in save situations only. If Osuna, or Sanchez (or both) stay in the pen, Gibbons now has three high-quality arms at his disposal in high leverage situations.
One thing seems certain: Storen will be a strikeout/inning guy. He posted a career high with 10.96 K/9, pounding the zone with that slider and a 94 mph fastball. The contact that hitters do tend to make off of him tends to be of the weak variety. He famously blew a save against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS, but he regained the closer’s job this year. That he was moved out of the role was due more to the Nationals’ misguided acquisition of Papelbon than any performance issues he had.
One of the keys to this deal is the performance of Saunders and/or Pompey. Saunders was acquired last off season for J.A. Happ, with the notion that his gap power would play well in the Rogers Centre, and that his defense would be a vast upgrade over that of incumbent Melky Cabrera. His lengthy injury history added another page, however, when he tore up his knee on an outfield sprinkler cover at the start of spring training. Pompey took a quantum leap up the organization’s depth chart after a breakout 2014 minor league season, but struggled out of the gate on both sides of the ball in 2015, and spent another summer in the minors. His steals of 2nd and 3rd against the Royals in a pinch-running role in the 9th inning of the 6th games against the Royals in last year’s ALCS demonstrated both his speed and considerable base-running smarts.
The Blue Jays have an assembled a relief corps that may not challenge the Yankees or Royals in terms of quality, but it’s a significant improvement over the group that opened the season last year, and given the team’s high-octane offence, should prove more than adequate when given a lead to protect.