On April 27th, after Nats' right-hander Brian Bruney had surrendered a leadoff single, one-out walk and base-loading hit before forcing in the winning run via walk-off walk in an extra-inning relief appearance on the road against the Chicago Cubs, MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, referencing Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin's article on the financial implications of when Nats' pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg makes his MLB debut, took a look at what it would cost the Nationals down the road if they were to bring up their second '09 1st Round pick and future Flat-Brimmed closer Drew Storen to work out of the bullpen earlier than the oft-rumored early June time frame. Mr. Goessling goes into more detail than I want to deal with here, (but the article is great, go read it, here's another link), but the conclusion he arrives at after examining some templates for Storen's future earnings (like the Red Sox' Jonathan Papelbon (on the high end of the scale) or "more reasonably" as Mr. Goessling writes, Rockies' right-hander Huston Street), is that it would actually cost the Nationals, "... a substantial amount of money," to bring Storen up early, and, Mr. Goessling writes, "...Storen's early arrival wouldn't carry the kind of drawing power that Strasburg's would, in the form of extra cash from increased ticket sales."
With Bruney continuing to struggle and the Nationals looking for a seventh-inning solution to complement the Tyler Clippard/Matt Capps set-up/closer tandem, Storen's name came up again this weekend when Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman was asked if the solution to the team's middle relief issues might currently be pitching in Syracuse for the Nats' Triple-A affiliate:
Q: ...is it tempting to think about [Drew] Storen in that role at some point?
Jim Riggleman: "Well I think down the road, but he's had just minimal time so far, a couple innings here or there in Triple-A, and I think we're a little ways away from that, but I hope that he can handle it when he gets here, but I'd like for somebody to pitch well enough here that we don't even have to make that move, we just get it solidified with the guys right here, and if there was a reason that we brought him up, fine, but I don't want it to be because he's struggling here."
In 28 games and 37.0 IP at three stops in the Nats' system, the then-21-year-old right-hander (who turned 22 last August) allowed 21 hits, 8 ER and 8 walks (1.95 BB/9) while recording 49 K's (11.92) and 11 saves, nine of which came at Double-AA Harrisburg where he ended his '09 campaign. Storen started the twenty-ten season with the Senators this season as well, posting a 0.96 ERA with 11 K's (10.61 K/9) and 4 saves in 7 games and 9.1 IP over which he surrendered just 1 ER on a HR and 1 walk, earning a promotion to Triple-A a few days before his fellow '09 1st Round pick. With the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, Storen's made just 3 appearances as Mr. Riggleman notes, pitching a total of 3.2 innings and giving up 6 hits and 1 ER without walking anyone yet.
Is Drew Storen ready for the Majors? He was drafted as a (nearly) major-league ready reliever, and is expected to eventually assume the closer's role in DC. Why not bring him up early if the current members of the Nats' bullpen aren't getting it done? Are the financial implications enough to make the Nationals' decision to hold him back reasonable? Storen's not going to come up before the late-May, early-June period that's been discussed all along, but it's interesting to think about what adding another shut-down arm to an already successful bullpen might mean to the Nats' ability to continue to remain competitive in the NL East.