On Tuesday night, the Washington Nationals traded for All-Star closer, Jonathan Papelbon, who will now serve as the team’s closer. Papelbon said he would not accept a trade (he has a no-trade clause in his contract) unless it was to a contending team and that he would remain a closer. This move raises some eyebrows as the Nats already have a closer in Drew Storen. Washington General Manager Mike Rizzo said when the move was made that Papelbon would be the ninth inning pitcher, moving Storen to the role of set-up man.
For Storen, this move appears to give him a “demotion” despite pitching well all season. He has converted 29 saves in 31 opportunities with a 1.21 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 46 strikeouts. Papelbon came over 17-17 on the season in save opportunities and converted his first save opportunity for Washington Thursday afternoon in a 1-0 Nats victory over the Miami Marlins. The duo of Storen and Papelbon was lights out against Miami, combining to throw just 19 pitches and three strikeouts. Storen struck out two in his new role, while Papelbon ended the game with a punch out of his own.
The Nats said they talked with Storen about the trade before it was made, and at first he was not willing to give up his position, but later said he just wanted to win. Then a report came out saying Storen and his agent were having ongoing discussions after the Papelbon trade. It is never easy for a player to give up his spot in order for a new guy to replace him, but in Storen’s case, he should just let it happen and be a great setup man for Papelbon. Along with the 18-18 in save opportunities, Papelbon has a 1.06 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 40 strikeouts. He is the better of the two pitchers, no matter how hard it is for Storen to accept.
This move is more about bolstering the back end of the bullpen heading down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs. Speaking of playoffs, Papelbon has pitched 27 innings in 18 games and is 7-9 in save opportunities to go along with a 1.00 ERA. He also has a World Series ring from his days with the Boston Red Sox. Storen, in only six career playoff games, has pitched in 5.1 innings and has an ERA of 8.44 and two blown saves. It is unfair to compare the two closers’ postseason statistics, but Washington wanted to tie up any loose ends that might have been with their bullpen.
Storen should accept the role of setup man and set the table for Papelbon, who has been one of the best pitchers, let alone closers, over the last decade. If Storen really wants to win, he should stay with his current team, who happens to be leading the National League East. Papelbon can also be a mentor to Storen, as he has been in the big leagues longer. This is a scary duo that teams will have to face at the end of games. In the end, Washington bolstered their bullpen, have two guys who can close out games, and made it even harder to be beaten.