Scouting The Trade Market: Drew Storen

Fan Confidence Poll: January 20th, 2014
Past Trade Review: Curtis Granderson

These next five days are going to be all about Masahiro Tanaka. The right-hander has until 5pm ET on Friday to sign with an MLB team, otherwise he’ll return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles for another year. I don’t see him returning to Japan. Especially not with five clubs reportedly making nine-figure offers. The Yankees are said to be one of those teams.

New York will not make another major move until the Tanaka situation is resolved — every club seems to be doing the same thing — and while adding a starter should be the top priority, the team also needs to fill out its bullpen. Just yesterday we heard they are seeking a proven late-inning arm to pair with David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and Matt Thornton. Add a bullpen arm is a necessity more than a luxury at this point.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Nationals would like to trade current setup man and former closer Drew Storen. Washington is in the mix for the still available Grant Balfour, and trading Storen would be a cost-saving move. Does the 26-year-old right-hander make sense for the bullpen-needy Yankees? Let’s look.

The Pros

  • From his big league debut in May 2010 through the 2012 season, Storen posted a 2.96 ERA (3.13 FIP) with good to great strikeout (8.39 K/9 and 23.0 K%), walk (2.80 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%), and ground ball (45.9%) rates in 161 innings. He also handled lefties (.261 wOBA against) as well as he handled righties (.270).
  • Storen is one of those rare relievers who will use four pitches regularly: mid-90 two and four-seam fastballs, upper-80s changeup, and low-80s slider. That deep arsenal is why he had no platoon split.
  • The only thing Storen has not done in his short career is be a long reliever. He has experience closing (52-for-60 in save chances from 2010-12), he’s been a setup man, and he did the middle relief thing earlier in his career. Nothing would be new to him.
  • Storen will earn $3.45M next season, his second of four years of arbitration-eligibility as a Super Two. He has at least one minor league option remaining and will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season.

The Cons

  • Storen was not particularly good last season, pitching to a 4.52 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 61.2 innings while spending roughly two weeks in Triple-A. Lefties destroyed him (.347 wOBA against) and he had a career worst homer rate (1.02 HR/9) as well.
  • Surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow limited Storen to only 30.1 innings in 2012. His fastball velocity has slipped a bit over the years and his slider whiff rate last year (11.44%) was way lower than the previous three years (15.49%).
  • Storen has had some high-profile meltdowns, specifically blowing a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Game Five of the 2012 NLDS. The Nationals clearly lost confidence in him after that even though they insist otherwise.

It’s possible Storen’s issues last year were related to simple bad ball-in-play luck — his career-high .319 BABIP in 2013 was way higher than his .267 mark from 2010-12. Weird stuff like that can happen when you’re talking about a game that involves hitting a round ball with a round cylindrical bat onto a large swath of grass, especially in the confines of 60-something innings. The elbow surgery, slight velocity decline, and possible confidence hit from blowing the 2012 NLDS may have also been (and likely were) factors.

Given his poor year and the fact that the Nationals have made it clear they’ve lost faith in him, Storen qualifies as a buy-low candidate. He’s still young and the upside is three years of an above-average to lights out late-inning reliever. If worse comes to worst, he could always be non-tendered. It’s difficult to come up with trades involving similar relievers at similar points of their career (Mark Melancon? Addison Reed? Ernesto Frieri?), so who knows what it would take to acquire him. Bill Ladson says the Nationals are looking to trade for a backup catcher, but I doubt Austin Romine gets it down without a good secondary piece. (I don’t mean Eduardo Nunez either.)

It’s worth pointing out that the Yankees drafted Storen out of high school back in the day (34th round in 2007), so they liked him at some point in the not too distant past. There is a tiny bit of familiarity there, but, even if there wasn’t, the club needs late-inning bullpen help and Storen looked to be on the path to becoming one of the best relievers in the game less than 18 months ago. Washington has soured on him and, like teammate Danny Espinosa, there might be an opportunity for the Yankees to acquire him for 75 cents on the dollar. There are some red flags, no doubt, but the same is true of every available reliever.

Fan Confidence Poll: January 20th, 2014
Past Trade Review: Curtis Granderson
  • RM

    The Nats have some extra depth in the middle infield (Espinosa and Walters). Really wonder what kind of package it would take to include one of them with Storen. I mean it would solve some of the Yankees problems.

  • uyf1950

    I rather the Yankees look harder in Balfour and if he’s healthy go with him. Balfour is probably only going to cost about $5MM per on a 2 year deal. He seems like a better option than Storen.

    • Mikhel

      I’m with you, I’d rather have the Yankees sign Balfour.

  • Mikhel

    Hi Axisa!

    A few of us regulars here in riveraveblues maybe followed Carlos M. Silva in Twitter and probably most of us didn’t know that he died hours ago from cancer. He was part of the Yankee family, producer of the games in spanish for WCBS, YesNetwork and worked at

  • Dicka24

    Cervelli and a piece for Storen. I’d love to take a flyer on Espinoza, but from everything I’ve read they refuse to trade low on him.

    If a guy like Storen is too costly, then I’d agree on going the Balfour route. Cash in while the price is down.

    • Graig not Craig

      Why Cervelli? Who is your backup catcher once you deal Kazoo? I don’t think Espinoza is worth a major leaguer. Romine and a piece sounds better to me.

      • Graig not Craig

        Strike that – not Espinoza – Storen.

  • JGYank

    What’s considered to be a good HR/9 rate? 1 seems to be below average but I don’t know what the league average is.

    • Mike Axisa

      League average for relievers last year was 0.87 HR/9. Storen was at 0.61 from 2010-12, so it was a big jump for him last year.

      • JGYank

        Thanks. Seems like there are many red flags with him like his whiff rate and his velocity dropping, surgery, and his HR/9 and BABIP (which may or may not be luck) increasing. Still couldn’t hurt to take a flyer on him though.

  • leftylarry

    There are so many good young arms for relief in the Yankees minor leagues, bring 4-5 up during spring training and GUARANTEED one will emerge as a revelation like they always do.
    Why keep bringing in other people’s crap for big money when you have a farm system.

    • mitch

      i’m sure there is a guy or two from the group that will emerge as a solid reliever. The situation is different from prior years though. They won’t have the luxury of starting out pitching low-leverage innings behind Rivera, Robertson, Soriano, etc.

      Betances, Ramirez, etc might have fantastic springs and earn roster spots, but i definitely wouldn’t want them getting their feet wet pitching the 8th inning of a 3-2 game on opening day. It’d be nice to add another reliever with some higher-leverage experience, and let the young guys work their way up.

  • The Great Gonzo

    I like Storen. I am a fan. And, yes, he has his warts… but so do ALL relievers (‘What’s Wrong with MO Week’, anyone?)

    What do the Nats need though?

  • Willie

    He is making to much for the Yankees to trade for unless then sign Tanaka I dont see any more acquistions that will cost more than 1 million dollars so they keep under the 189 million.

  • RM

    Was reading some Nats blogs and they mentioned one of the reasons that Espinosa has not been traded yet is that he might not pass a physical. He still may have shoulder issues that have scared off other teams. In that case I would look into Walters.

    • Bill

      Walters is a better option anyway. He is younger, has a stronger arm and can play 3B and SS. Espinoza is a 2B man.

  • soxhata

    I enjoyed the video highlights.I like his fire.The Yanks will wait til he’s over 37 before having serious interest.

  • Bill

    Storen and Zachary Walters for Romine, Nunez and Betances. Three for two trade opens up a spot on our 40 man for Tanaka ( fingers crossed)

    • RM

      I would think you would have to give up more. Maybe something like Romine, Turley and Flores. I know that the Nats liked Turley in the past. That might not even do it. They would ask for Murphy instead of Romine, I believe. I would not consider that a deal breaker.

  • Bill O

    Storen makes a lot of sense as does Espinosa. Would love to land one or both of them. I wonder if they’d have interest in JR Murphy among others. Murphy is guy that IMO is destined to either be traded or to fall flat on his face and lose most of his value. His trade value might never be higher than it is now. Remember when Romine had value as something more than a sub-par backup? That’s roughly where Murphy is now. The chances of his value going down are higher than the chances of it going up as he’s just an injury or a poor season away from losing a lot of value. The upside in his value is probably low. He’d need to significantly improve upon the AAA numbers he’s already put up. He’s behind both McCann and Cervelli (and possibly Romine) in the ML pecking order, so he’s unlikely to get a shot to improve his value at the ML level. The time to trade Murphy is now. Especially since the Yankees already have too many C’s on their 40-man roster. Yes, there is a risk that he goes on to be a starting caliber C elsewhere, but he’s not going to start for the Yankees anyway.

    • RM

      Would agree that Murphy/Turley/Flores for Storen and Walters or Espinosa is a fair trade. You have to give up something to get something.

    • W.B. Mason Williams

      If he repeats the numbers he put up last season at AA and AAA teams will be busting down the Yankees door trying to acquire him.

      A good defensive catcher that hits .270 with 15+ HRs is a rare and highly coveted commodity. Not to mention he’s pretty much MLB-ready.

      • Bill O

        Honestly don’t think his value goes up that much with another strong season in AAA. It will certainly increase especially as he becomes ML ready, but his value won’t see a significant bump unless he improves upon the numbers he put up last year. There’s a greater chance that he regresses or gets injured than does that.

  • Mark Texieria – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    If the Yankees are going to try and pry a reliever from Washington, I much rather they go after Clippard. Though I get the feeling that the Nationals wouldn’t take the Yankee farm system equivalent of Jonathan Albeladejo. God that trade still really bothers me.

  • Chris

    Why couldn’t they try to trade for Clippard instead? He’s an ex-Yankee and proven to be a very solid reliever. Or do you just not see the Nats making such a deal, because they value him more than Storen?

    Either way, I’d take Storen, he’s still pretty young and would be a definite boost to the pen.