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September 10, 2015 / Nat Anacostia

Trade Storen now!

After game 3 of the Mets series, my opinions are the same as those of Harper at Nationals Baseball: “Fire Matt Williams, and “Today, for me, the season is over.”

But I’ll also add a third thought—let’s trade Drew Storen right now.

I should say that I like Storen. He’s always seemed to me to be a smart guy who enjoys his bullpen role and wants to be an excellent closer. He’s got good stuff, and when things a clicking well (as they were during the first half of this season) he can be one of the better relievers in baseball. But the last five weeks have just been brutal, and combined with his earlier mishaps in the 2012 and 2014 playoffs and the bitterness over the Jonathan Papelbon trade, I just can’t see him returning to Washington next year for his final season before free agency. I think there’s at least a 90% chance the team will trade him. There are simply too many fans who don’t want to see him pitching here next year.

So if we’re going to trade him anyway, why not do it right now? September trades are rare, for the simple reason that teams can’t use any player acquired after the end of August in the post-season. But teams are still permitted to make trades in September, and I’ll argue that trading him right now would be the best move, both for the Nationals and for Storen.

Who would want Storen? I think we can rule out the National League—the five playoff teams are pretty much set, so none of them are going to trade a prospect for a relief pitcher that they can’t use in the post-season.

The American League, however, is a different story. There are still tight races in two divisions—with the Blue Jays and Yankees contending in the East and the Astros and Rangers in the West. For the wild card race we can add two more teams that still have a shot, the Twins and the Angels. So there are six teams contesting for four playoff slots (with the Royals a sure thing for the fifth slot). Furthermore, only one of those six teams, the Yankees, has a good bullpen. For the other five teams, Storen could be a big help for shoring up their bullpen for the last three weeks of the season, and there are few other relievers still available. So if Mike Rizzo decides to shop Storen around, he should find some potential buyers.

I think this actually may be the time when Storen’s value will be the highest. His salary, at $5.7 million this year, is already getting up there, and next year, in his final year of arbitration, he’ll be due another increase. At those prices, teams this winter will find his salary cost to be similar to good free agent relievers, so I don’t expect them to be willing to give up a good prospect for a reliever with his salary. But by dealing him now and adding the value he could bring over the next three weeks in a tight pennant race, a contending team could be induced to part with a decent prospect. If we’re going to trade him this winter anyway, I think we get the best deal by shopping him right away.

It would also be best for Storen. Starting fresh with a new team in a new league is his best shot at getting past whatever psychological impediments have been hampering him with the Nationals. If he stays in Washington, he’s going to be booed at home games for the rest of this season. And although he won’t regain his closer role immediately with a new team, if things work out well perhaps a new team will consider moving him to the closer role next season. With the Nats committed to Papelbon, there’s very little chance of him returning to closing while in Washington.

So, Rizzo, get on the phone and let’s make a deal.

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