So was the Washington Nationals' acquisition of veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon just before this past July's non-waiver trade deadline a sign of a lack of confidence in Drew Storen or a reaction to the trouble the Nats' relievers experienced in locking down the seventh and eighth innings... or a little bit of both?
Either way, the trade did not sit well with the 2009 1st Round pick, who'd held the ninth-inning role before Papelbon came on board.
"All I’m going to say is obviously I’m aware of the move," Storen told reporters after the deal with the Philadelphia Phillies was announced.
"Talked to [GM] Mike [Rizzo] about it. Talked to my agent. We’ve had some ongoing discussions. Until those have progressed, I’m just going to leave it at that."
Storen was 29 for 31 in save opportunities before the trade with a 1.73 ERA and a .212/.271/.250 line against in 36 ⅓ IP, over which he walked nine (2.23 BB/9) and struck out 44 (10.90 K/9).
He threw five scoreless and hitless innings as the eight-inning/set-up man immediately after the trade before things blew up for the 28-year-old reliever.
In his final 15 appearances of the season, Storen allowed 17 hits and 16 runs, 14 earned, (9.22 ERA) in 13 ⅔ innings pitched, over which opposing hitters put up a .293/.388/.534 line against him.
His season ended with back-to-back outings in which he struggled against the New York Mets, giving up a big base- clearing double and three walks in his next-to-last outing and a devastating three-run blast in his last, after which he suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right thumb while slamming the safe in clubhouse locker shut.
"Storen was almost certainly going to be traded this winter," Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote in the immediate aftermath of the blow-up against the Mets. "Now he must be."
NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman wrote then that Storen did request a trade after the Papelbon deal, "... but general manager Mike Rizzo wouldn’t grant it in-season.
But, Zuckerman wrote, the "... assumption all along ... was that the Nationals would revisit the matter over the winter, with Storen likely to be traded."
That was, of course, before Papelbon too had his season end prematurely when he accepted a three-game suspension from Major League Baseball for throwing at/near Baltimore Orioles' third baseman Manny Machado's head after he was also suspended for four games by the Nationals following his dugout altercation/choking incident with NL MVP Bryce Harper.
So will the Nationals have to trade both relievers? Rizzo told reporters at the General Managers' Meetings last month that he wouldn't trade either Storen or Papelbon unless he got a legitimate offer.
"We like [Papelbon] and [Storen] at the back end of the bullpen," Rizzo said in an MLB Network appearance last week.
"They're both under contract and unless something happens where we get a real baseball deal to move one of them they're going to be in the back end of the bullpen."
Papelbon is owed $11M in 2016 after he and the Nationals renegotiated his contract as part of the trade from the Phillies.
Storen, who earned $5.7M in 2015, is due a raise to around $8.8M according to MLBTradeRumors.com's 2016 arbitration projections in his last season before free agency.
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark wrote recently that he'd heard from, "... clubs who have talked to the Nationals," who have said, "... they're trying to remake the back of their bullpen by trading both of the men who closed for them last year, Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen."
Stark quoted an anonymous official from one team in the market for a closer, who "... laughed about Washington general manager Mike Rizzo's recent quotes saying he doesn't feel any pressure to trade Papelbon in particular.":
"Everyone knows the situation," the official said. "They're saying they don't have to move him. But after the guy chokes [Bryce] Harper, they've gotta do something. And they've got to eat some money, because nobody's taking $11 million."
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick wrote on Twitter this afternoon that the Houston Astros would consider a deal for Storen, though, he's apparently not the Astros' first choice:
#Astros have discussed Drew Storen as possible late-inning option. More a fallback if they don't land Chapman, Giles, McGee in trade.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 5, 2015
MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote tonight that Washington will be shopping Storen at this week's Winter Meetings.
The Nationals, "... are looking to trade reliever Drew Storen, according to three baseball sources with knowledge of the situation," Ladson reported.
"It's not known what the Nationals are looking for in exchange for the right-hander."
What can they get for one year of control of the right-hander?
Will the Nationals trade Papelbon as well as ESPN's Jayson Stark suggested? Will anyone actually take the chance Rizzo did in acquiring Papelbon?