When the Washington Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies yesterday, they probably envisioned an enviable situation: Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon teaming up to shut down games at the back end. Without a true setup man, the Nationals uncomfortably went through the eighth inning night after night. The problem seemed to be finally solved with the addition of Papelbon. But another one may have started.
Mark Zuckermann of Nats Insider is concerned in, "Key to trade isn't Papelbon, it's Storen:
The real question is how Storen handles all of this. The point has been made before, but it needs to be made again now: He arguably has been the best reliever in baseball over the last two calendar years. Since returning from his brief demotion to Class AAA Syracuse in the summer of 2013, he owns a 1.37 ERA. That’s the best mark of any MLB reliever who has pitched at least 50 innings. (Papelbon, for what it’s worth, ranks 24th on that list with a still-impressive 2.07 ERA.)
Storen worked really hard to recapture that form after his well-known blown save in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS and subsequent disaster of a half-season following the Nationals’ signing of Rafael Soriano. He did not handle that situation well, not even close, and it took quite awhile for him to get past it.
Storen's comments after the game were a bit concerning, too.
Storen only said that "he was aware" that the Phillies made the trade:
"Really, all I'm gonna say is that obviously I'm aware of the move," Storen said. "I've talked to (Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo) about it. I've talked to my agent. We've had some ongoing discussions. Until those have progressed, I'm just gonna leave it at that and no comment for now. But as the situation goes, I'll keep you guys posted."
If there is a "situation" then something isn't right.
This is not the same as a demotion in most people's jobs. The Nationals have a legitimate shot at a World Series. Storen was not released; the Nationals did what they could to get as sure a lock-down back-end reliever as they could possibly get, an area of weakness for the Nationals. Should Storen cause a fuss, he is disrespecting the same Nationals who stuck with him as he blew two playoff games, and as he put up a 4.52 earned run average and -0.7 WAR in 2013.
A World Series is at stake. If Storen truly wants one, he will be a good teammate and go get one. If not, the Nationals have a real problem.