In the immediate aftermath of Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper's dugout altercation and Papelbon's subsequent suspension, Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters that the veteran right-hander's future with the Nats was something that would be discussed once the regular season came to an end.
"He's under contract," Rizzo said. "We're going to evaluate every moving part that we have after the season and we'll make all those decisions once the final out is made in 2015."
Papelbon agreed to a reduction of his option for 2016 (from $13M to $11M with $3M deferred to 2017) as the trade from Philadelphia was being worked out, with the Nationals guaranteeing the option that was to vest provided he finished 100 games total between 2014-15, which he did.
Drew Storen, who was bumped from closer to set-up man once Papelbon was acquired, reportedly requested a trade after being taken out of his ninth inning role.
Though his first few outings following the deal were impressive, Storen's season ended with the 2009 1st Round pick in the midst of a rough stretch when he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right thumb while slamming the safe in his clubhouse stall shut.
Asked for his thoughts on Papelbon and Storen and their respective futures in D.C. earlier this week when he spoke to reporters at the GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, Rizzo said the possibility remained that both pitchers would be back in the nation's capital in 2016.
"As of today, they’re both in the bullpen," Rizzo told reporters, including the Washington Post's James Wagner.
"They’re both good relief pitchers. Unless someone makes us a real baseball offer, they will be."
As the WaPost reporter noted, of course the Nats saying they're willing to keep both relievers shouldn't be too surprising, or as he put it, "... the Nationals refuse to hurt the trade value of either reliever by appearing eager to deal them."
But getting a "real baseball offer" for either Papelbon or Storen might be difficult.
"Three GMs of teams seeking a closer were asked if they'd consider Jonathan Papelbon," Heyman wrote, "and the responses were 'No,' 'Pass,' and uproarious laughter, which was also taken as a no."
As for Storen, who finished the 2015 campaign with a 3.44 ERA, 16 walks (2.62 BB/9), 67 Ks (10.96 K/9), 29 saves and a .217/.291/.312 line against in 58 games and 55 innings pitched, after putting up a 1.79 ERA, nine walks (2.23 BB/9), 44 Ks (10.90 K/9) and a .212/.271/.250 line in 36 ⅓ IP before the Papelbon deal, Rizzo told the WaPost's Wagner he thought Storen could get it together again.
"I think Storen is going to pitch much closer to the guy before the last month of the season than the guy in the last month," Rizzo said. "It’s important for him to pitch well, for us and I think it’s important for him personally. I think he’s got good stuff, and there’s no reason he should not pitch well."
Storen earned $5.7M last season and he's projected to earn somewhere around $8.8M in 2016.
The Nats did, of course, deal set-up man Tyler Clippard last winter at least, "... in part because he was going to make $8.3 million in his final year of arbitration," as Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga wrote in his three-part look at what went wrong in Washington in 2015.
Will the Nationals be willing to pay $8.8M for Storen to serve as the set-up man?
How much of Papelbon's salary will the Nationals have to eat in order to get someone to take him if they do want to trade him? Does Storen's projected 2016 salary make him the more likely of the two to get dealt if either is traded?
Bryce Harper reportedly reached out to Papelbon to make sure they could coexist on the roster next season. Did anyone reach out to Storen?