Acquired RHP Nick Pivetta from the Nationals in exchange for Jonathan Papelbon. [7/28]
When you pitch behind Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, it's not difficult to fly under the radar. However, Pivetta has shown effectiveness and progression during the past two seasons, finally pushing his way to Double-A this year. He has a tall and built frame, with relatively clean mechanics. There is a slightly inverted foot land with a crossfire, but Pivetta generally repeats his delivery. While the stuff is not overwhelming, Pivetta uses his heavy fastball that comes from a downhill plane to generate outs. The fastball can sit 90-94 mph and has touched 95-96 mph at times. The changeup sits around 83-85 mph, displaying mild fade. It has the potential to be an average offering if he can find consistency with his release point. He also throws a slider and a curveball, but both blend together around 75-80 mph and are fringe offerings. There is a chance for Pivetta to be a backend starter if one of the slider and curveball improves, but the realistic role is a potential 7th inning arm that can rely on the boring action of his plus fastball. This is a nice under-the-radar pickup for the Phillies. —Tucker Blair
Those who have waited on Giles have likely grown tired of waiting by now, but he is finally ready to step in and take the closer's role that seemed pre-destined for him ever since he exploded onto the scene in 2014. His season long stats look impressive enough, but he's been even better as the season's gone on thanks to rediscovering his velocity, which has increased with each month of the season (95.8 MPH in April, 96.9 in May, 97.8 in June and 98.1 in July). The save opportunities will likely be few and far between, just like they were for Papelbon, but he slides right into that mid-range, high-strikeout closer level with A.J. Ramos and Carson Smith for the rest of the season. —Bret Sayre
Acquired RHP Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies in exchange for RHP Nick Pivetta. [7/28]
If the Nationals entered the week with one need, it was perfect health. If the Nationals entered the week with two needs, then they were perfect health and another late-inning reliever.
A confluence of factors has left Washington's bullpen ranked 20th in the majors in DRA. The trouble started when Craig Stammen underwent season-ending flexor surgery in April. The Nationals have since shut down in-season pickup David Carpenter due to shoulder discomfort, as well as abandoned hope that Blake Treinen and/or Aaron Barrett could serve as internal high-leverage solutions, leaving them with four reliable 'pen options: Drew Storen, Matt Thornton, Felipe Rivero, and Casey Janssen. Once a reunion with Tyler Clippard was taken off the table—by the Mets, of all teams—Papelbon became arguably the Nats' best and most realistic option, whether anyone wanted to admit it or not.
For as poorly as the Phillies have played in recent years, and as unlikable as Papelbon is at his loudest, he remains one of the game's best closers. This season alone he's managed a 239 ERA+ and a 5.0 strikeout-to-walk rate, cementing his time in Philadelphia as a complete and utter success. Papelbon's strikeout rate isn't what it used to be, but he pounds the zone and misses more than enough bats and barrels with his three-pitch mix: a low-to-mid-90s fastball, slider, and splitter. Were it not for his personality or the inclination to mock everything Phillies-related, Papelbon would probably be considered the go-to post-Rivera example to the idea that some relievers can and do age well.
Someone who won't talk about Papelbon with such fondness is Drew Storen. Once again, Storen is set to lose his closer's gig to a more-established, more-famous veteran. Obviously, Storen might play the role of good soldier, taking the demotion (in earning power as well as status) in stride for the sake of team chemistry, but you can't blame him if he feels miffed. The Nationals have to know about that possibility, meaning they trust Matt Williams to smooth everything over—and to keep it smoothed.
How this move affects Storen, if at all, is the lone negative of the transaction. Supposedly teams should have been leery of Papelbon's $13 million club option that was set to vest with an additional 13 games finished, but that appears guaranteed as part of the deal, albeit in a restructured form. That fear was misplaced all along, as there are worse outcomes than having one of the game's best relievers on a one-year, $13 million deal—or less than what the qualifying offer itself guarantees. Sure there's the risk that Papelbon gets hurt, or that he annoys the Screech out of everyone, yet the upside is worth the gamble for a team that intends to compete this season and next. —R.J. Anderson
Save opportunities may be the most fickle thing to try and project when a closer switches teams, but there's a huge difference in quality of teams here, and Storen has had 31 save opportunities up to this point for the Nationals, while Papelbon has had 17 in the same timeframe. Fickle or not, that's a pretty sizable difference. Besides that, nothing changes, but when it comes to closers, there's only that.
Womp womp. He's still worth hanging onto in NL-only leagues and mixed leagues where middle relievers hold value (which is more and more these days), but that loud sound you hear outside your window is the thump of Storen hitting waiver wires across the world. —Bret Sayre