Welcome to the Bench: Drew Storen

Born: 8/11/1988 (28 years old) Indianapolis, Indiana, US
Drafted: 1st round (10th overall) in 2009 by Washington Nationals
Teams: Washington Nationals (2010-2015)
Positions: Pitcher
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 195 lbs
Bat: Both
Throw: Right
Full Baseball Reference Bio

Drew Storen stats
Fangraphs Profile for full Career Advanced Statistics

The Trade
On January 8th, 2015 the Toronto Blue Jays trade outfielder Ben Revere and a player to be named later to the Washington Nationals for pitcher Drew Storen and cash.

What he brings to the team

Finally I have something to write about other than Joe Bigiani or Arnold Leon!

I’m going to just come out and say it; I love this move. It just makes so much sense for both sides.

The Nationals lost their starting center fielder Denard Span to the Giants in free agency. So it was not a secret that they were in the market for a left-handed batting center fielder to fill the void. After the Nats had upgraded their middle infield in the way of pricey free agent Daniel Murphy, it was no surprise to hear that they were looking to trade some pitching surplus in order to fill the hole left by Span’s departure.

The Blue Jays had a surplus of their own, with 4 major league caliber left fielders on their roster, and were able to flip Revere for an impact bull pen arm. Storen was one of the most effective closers in the MLB for the first half of last year. Before the Nationals traded for Papelbon on July 28th, Storen had 29 saves with 2 blown saves with an ERA of 1.73 and 10.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. His numbers tailed off by the end of the year but it was evident that his frustration for his minimized role was part of the problem. Regardless of his numbers, his stuff was still electric at the end of the year (Fangraphs velocity charts).

Storen’s pitch selection consists of a 4-seam fastball, sinker, changeup and slider. His max velocity on his 4-seamer was 96.2 MPH last year with an average velocity of 94.1 MPH. Last season  his K% reached an all-time high of 29.4% over 55 innings pitched. The biggest potential cause for such an increase in strikeouts last year was his increased slider usage. Usually known as primarily a sinker ball pitcher, 2015 was the first season that Storen’s slider was his most thrown pitch (he threw 230 in 2014 which increased to 301 last season). His sinker usage dropped from 284 sinkers thrown in 2014 to 163 last season. It’s no wonder why when you see that last season his slider had a 42.2 K%, an opponents batting average of .165 and a wRC+ of 31.

On Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan wrote about the Storen’s new found faith in the slider. Sullivan describes the subtle changes that made Storen’s slider so effective last season:

Compared to last year, Storen’s slider isn’t flying any faster or slower. No speed has been added; no speed has been taken off. However, the pitch now has what you might say is a more exaggerated horizontal plane. Storen’s slider has more lateral break. It’s got a couple inches less drop. More of a Frisbee now, I guess. It seems like a subtle change — we’re talking matters of inches, here — but the slider’s certainly performing better. Looks like Storen might have a better feel for it now.

The result is a potentially elite reliever at the back end of Toronto’s bullpen. When grouped with Sanchez, Osuna, and lefty-specialist Brett Cecil, this bullpen is starting to look as formidable as any group out there.

Salary-wise, the deal seems to be neutral. Revere is set to make approximately $6.7 mil in arbitration and Storen will be paid $8.8 mil this season. But the cash that Nationals are to send with Storen should make it so this acquisition will barely make a dent in the Blue Jays’ payroll. An unseen benefit to this trade is that because there is only a one year commitment to Storen–as opposed to having at least another year of Revere in arbitration–which could potentially free up some room in the pay roll to potentially help extend Encarnacion or Bautista.

That isn’t to say that I won’t miss Revere. The 2 months that we got to see him in a Blue Jays uniform were by far the offensive peak of his career as he was hitting and getting on base at a much higher rate than his career averages. Not to mention he treated us some awesome web gems in the outfield.

As valuable as Revere was, I feel like a potentially healthy Sanders, or Pompey could potentially replicate the 1.9 WAR (only good for 20th in the MLB at the position) that Blue Jays Left fielders generated last season. Not to mention I think that Revere’s abilities as a “traditional” leadoff hitter were overstated. Pompey offers a similar skill set, Travis (when he’s healthy) is much better at getting on base and Tulowitzki could benefit from the extra at-bats that come with hitting leadoff.

Storen’s acquisition could create some more roster shuffling.  He could potentially fill the role that either Osuna or Sanchez pitched in last year as a closer or a right-handed setup man. This could give both young pitchers a longer look at a starting pitching role. It would not be surprising to see either pitcher gain a spot if the Jays do end up trading RA Dickey.

Seeing as Storen is in the last year of his contract, this is clearly a win-now move. But even if he does walk, the Blue Jays would most likely get a very high compensatory pick. Regardless of how Storen turns out this season, I’d say that the Blue Jays got more than enough value out of trading Alberto Tirado and Jimmy Cordero to Philadelphia.

Get to know Storen

He is definitely worth a follow on Twitter. Last night he changed his Twitter bio and it was all too accurate:

Pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and apparently now a Drake fan

And the first Torontonian he wants to meet? Toronto Councillor and Twitter star Norm Kelly.

Storen also seems to be a big advocate of yoga and is a big car buff.

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