Acquired RHP Drew Storen from Washington Nationals in exchange for OF-L Ben Revere [1/10]
Did all of the AL East’s front offices attend a taping of Oprah and find a closer taped under their chairs? Storen is the latest top-end reliever to make his way to the AL East, following in the footsteps of Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, and Aroldis Chapman. (Any day now, the Orioles will trade for Mark Melancon or Jeurys Familia. You heard it here first!)
The Jays’ acquisition of Storen is a classic “use a position of strength to address a position of weakness” move, particularly if the team is interested in testing Aaron Sanchez out in a starting role. They used an asset that may have been redundant in Revere in order to add a former closer who just put up the best season of his career on a short-term low-risk contract. Not bad.
Storen seems like he’s been dancing in and out of the ninth-inning role in Washington forever, but in 2015 he reshaped his slider, which now resembles Jose Fernandez’s slide-piece, upped his strikeout rate substantially, and–of course–lost his job to Jonathan Papelbon in the process. Though his 2015 DRA and WARP (3.16 and 1.1) didn't look too far out of line with his career marks (3.38 DRA and about 0.9 WARP), that strikeout rate was the big difference-maker, rising from 22.2 percent in his previous five seasons to 29.4 percent in 2015.
For a high-leverage reliever, Storen hasn’t always been terribly effective in all high-leverage situations. Storen had 197 situations over the past six years in which he earned either a shutdown (improved his team’s WPA by six percentage points while pitching) or a meltdown (cost his team’s WPA the same). In 147 of those situations, Storen recorded a shutdown, and in 50 he recorded a meltdown. That 75 percent shutdown-to-meltdown rate is only slightly above average for any reliever, and a bit below what one would expect from a setup man or closer.
What does that mean? While Storen has the reputation and experience of a late-inning reliever, and now he’s flashing the strikeout stuff of a high-end stopper, there are some concerns that he’s not the ideal thrower for late-and-close situations. Even as his strikeout rate rose in 2015, Storen still “melted down” nine times, compared to 24 shutdowns.
An Osuna-Storen-Sanchez end of the bullpen isn’t exactly the same as the team’s division rivals in Boston (Kimbrel, Smith, and Koji Uehara) and New York (Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Chapman), but it certainly looks better than average. Storen’s strikeout rate is rising, which is certainly cause for excitement, but there could be a little concern about whether or not he’s more prone to blow up during high-leverage situations than similar relievers in similar situations. (Perhaps bullpen mismanagement—Storen complained about how he was used in Washington, saying he didn't get enough rest between outings—mitigates those concerns some.)
Nevertheless, the Jays had a hole in their ‘pen, because every team has one or more holes in the bullpen. With Michael Saunders (maybe) and Dalton Pompey in play in left field, Ben Revere could have been considered expendable. Storen, though he’s not as certain of a lock-down reliever as other former closers, is an upgrade over Ryan Tepera or Bo Schultz.
Banking on any reliever is an uncertain game, but Storen is a relatively sure thing in terms of year-over-year performance—he’s performed pretty well each year, and he’s showing a nice trajectory. It’s the game-over-game performance that the Jays are going to have to hope comes through for them, hopefully with his best performances coming at some point in October. —Bryan Grosnick
Although the Blue Jays reportedly haven’t committed to a closer for the 2016 season, it’s undeniable that Storen’s opportunity to close games has increased with his move up north. Jonathan Papelbon had a stranglehold on the ninth inning in Washington, while Toronto’s incumbent closer, Roberto Osuna, could be groomed for a long-term transition to the starting rotation. It helps that Storen isn’t a questionable option for high-leverage innings; he posted a 77 cFIP in 2015 and struck out more than a batter per inning. Furthermore, his 12.2 percent swinging-strike rate was his highest since 2012, which coincides with using his slider more often (35.5 percent) than ever before. A high-volume-strikeout reliever with increased access to the ninth inning will always see his fantasy stock rise.
Osuna saved 20 games a year ago and grew into the closer’s role as the season progressed. As he is only 20 years old (still!), one would assume that he’s merely scratching the surface of his potential. The addition of Storen to the Blue Jays’ bullpen clouds only his fantasy stock, because Osuna may be too good to remain in the bullpen, now that a replacement exists. He has three legitimate pitches—meaning he’s not limited to a two-pitch repertoire like many relievers—and started all 17 games he pitched in A-ball between 2013 and 2014. The Blue Jays could conceivably send Osuna to the minors to continue his development as a starter. Given his quality performance in 2015, though, his transition to the starting rotation may come as a multi-inning reliever at the big-league level. Either way, that’s not closing games for the Blue Jays, and that hurts his fantasy value.
Cecil already lacked a clear pathway to the closer’s role in Toronto thanks to Osuna’s breakout performance, but the addition of Storen moves him further down the team’s closer depth chart. The left-hander enjoyed a brilliant 2015 campaign, striking out 32.7 percent of the batters he faced and compiling a sparkling 2.48 ERA. If he could somehow wiggle his way into the ninth inning, he’d have solid fantasy value in standard leagues. Unfortunately, it’s just not the case at this time. —J.P. Breen
Acquired OF-L Ben Revere from Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for RHP Drew Storen [1/10]
Revere, the Nationals’ newest acquisition, has historically been in the right place at the wrong time. To wit, after coming up with the Twins (you may remember them as a pretty poor team prior to 2015), he was traded to the Phillies when they were in the midst of their franchise-wide slide to the bottom of the National League East. But last year, Revere was dealt to the surging Toronto Blue Jays mid-season, finally reaching a team in the middle of their success. En route to the Washington Nationals—another team with aspirations of short-term success—the script is flipped: It’s the right time, but the wrong place. Revere is ostensibly tasked to replace the departed Denard Span in center field for the Nats, and this is not a good idea.
This isn’t a bad idea because Revere is a poor player. He’s not at all, despite his unorthodox skill set. Rather, the fleet-footed outfielder doesn’t fit the team’s most pressing needs, despite being a league-average ballplayer. The Nationals could use an offensive boost, for sure, and Revere is certainly capable of helping in that regard. It’s easy to draw a quick comp between Revere and former Phillies teammate Juan Pierre, as both players were contact-first speedsters who could hit around league-average despite offering no power at all. Revere’s .268 True Average (TAv) last season was absolutely fine, even for a left fielder.
In addition, the famously dinger-challenged Revere has been gently nudging his power numbers upward over the past few years as well: He now has four career major-league home runs! For a guy whose first big league jack in 2014 made big news, that’s certainly saying something. But, more importantly, Revere has been able to boost his doubles numbers and slugging percentage from nine and .352 in 2013, to 13 and .361 in 2014, to 22 and .377 in 2015. Progress!
Plus, Revere is one of league’s best at adding value on the basepaths. His considerable speed is the gateway to bonus value; among all big-league ballplayers in 2015, Revere earned the second-most baserunning runs (9.8), behind only Billy Hamilton. As the Wally West to Hamilton’s Barry Allen, Revere was able to maintain an 82 percent stolen base rate despite over 50 attempts—pitchers know he’s running, and he’s still able to commit acts of larceny four-fifths of the time. He’s among the league’s finest at every aspect of baserunning, from his stolen bases, to taking the extra base, to avoiding double plays.
The real issue at hand isn't offense, where Revere is a slight plus, but rather his ineffectiveness in functioning as an every-day center fielder defensively. Typically, we tend to look at fleet-footed, athletic outfielders and say “yep, he’s pretty good out there!” This new National is decidedly not. By FRAA, Revere has cost his teams about 13.6 runs in center and (mostly) left, and he appears to be stretched in center. Like Pierre, Revere has a classic noodle arm, and doesn’t seem to leverage his speed into excellent range like fellow speedster outfielders.
All in all, Revere is a solid, two-win outfielder in left field, but very well could be much worse than that if he’s stuffed in center. According to initial reports, that’s exactly where he’ll play. To get the most out of this acquisition, the Nats could leverage Michael Taylor as a defensive replacement, or perhaps wait until Jayson Werth has one of his regular injury fits. If the Nats were interested in thinking outside of the box (there don’t seem to be any indications they are), perhaps shuffling the deck and moving Bryce Harper to center, Werth to right, and installing Revere in left would give the team a more optimal defensive alignment.
With the offseason acquisitions of Daniel Murphy and Revere, the Nats seem to be punting defense up the middle a little bit in favor of increased contact ability on offense. In some ways this pulls a little bit from both of the two World Series teams from last year: the Royals’ contact-first approach and the Mets’ general indifference to middle-of-the-diamond defense. As a team who may be watching the window close on their run of National League dominance, cribbing from the Mets and Royals may be wise, and the team can certainly use a top-of-the lineup table setter ahead of Harper. But dealing Storen for Revere could be robbing Peter to pay Paul, especially if the Nats’ faith in Revere's glove is unfounded. —Bryan Grosnick
Revere leaves a crowded outfield in Toronto—one that includes Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, and (even) Dalton Pompey—to a thinner depth chart in our nation’s capital. Rookie center fielder Michael Taylor can handle himself defensively; however, he managed only a .282 on-base percentage, which is untenable for any club with World Series aspirations. That should open the door for Revere, who hit .306/.342/.377 in 2015 with 31 stolen bases. Without any semblance of power, the depressed offensive environment shouldn’t affect him much. Fantasy owners should perhaps be concerned that the Nationals stole ony 57 bases as a team in 2015, but with a new manager, it’s questionable how much that statistic matters. He should score plenty of runs, though, as the Nationals project to have a potent lineup directly behind him. Value Revere in the same way as you did when he was with the Blue Jays in 2015. It’s not much different, even if his 2016 looks better than it did a week ago.
Taylor was an interesting low-tier power/speed player in fantasy circles, someone who could hit 15 homers and steal 15 bases, but be a huge burden on the batting average category. Now, with addition of Revere, the 24-year-old may struggle to reach 400 plate appearances (barring a significant injury somewhere else on the roster). Perhaps he’s still worth drafting in deeper leagues. He’s certainly worth holding in deeper dynasty leagues. But it’s clear that his stock has dropped for 2016. —J.P. Breen