On the final night of the Winter Meetings last month, Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked how the market for relievers Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon had changed, if at all, over the last few months. He'd previously said that if anyone made real baseball offers, he would consider trading his late-inning relievers.
"I think it's been consistent," Rizzo told reporters of the interest.
"There is a market for relievers, as we've seen with the free agent signings. The reliever market is booming and there are a lot of teams looking for relief pitching."
Storen, 28, saved 29 games for the Nationals in 2015, but struggled down the stretch after a move to a set-up role following Papelbon's acquisition, and was finished for the year after 58 games and 55 innings after suffering a non-displaced fracture in his right thumb slamming the locker in his clubhouse stall shut after a rough outing against the New York Mets in early September.
He finished his sixth major league season with a 3.44 ERA, a 2.79 FIP, 16 walks (2.62 BB/9) and 67 Ks (10.96 K/9) in a 1.1 fWAR campaign.
Storen, an '09 1st Round pick, is projected, by MLBTraderumors.com, to get something close to $8.8M in his final year of team control. He reportedly asked for a trade after Papelbon was acquired to close for the Nationals.
"Drew Storen's name has been mentioned around the league," Rizzo said last month, "and we've fielded several calls for Drew and several of our other bullpen pieces too."
Papelbon, 35, and under contract for $11M in 2016, with $3M of that money deferred to 2017, finished his eleventh major league season with 24 saves, a 2.13 ERA, a 3.70 FIP, 12 walks (1.71 BB/9) and 56 Ks (7.96 K/9) in 63 ⅓ IP, over which he was worth 0.4 fWAR.
In spite of the fact that his season ended when he was suspended for three games for hitting Baltimore Orioles' infielder Manny Machado with a pitch and three games for choking Bryce Harper with his hand during a dugout altercation in late September, Rizzo said he thought the veteran reliever could return to the nation's capital.
Rizzo said he was comfortable with the idea of both Storen and Papelbon remaining in D.C. in 2016.
"They're both highly-talented, extremely competitive, very good relief pitchers and if that's your eighth inning and ninth inning guys, we feel comfortable with that."
FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi wrote early Sunday morning that with, "Papelbon projected to open the season as the Washington Nationals’ closer, the team is still trying to trade the man he displaced from the role, Drew Storen."
Storen's projected salary, however, is, "too expensive for a number of would-be suitors," Morosi noted.
"But the Nationals don’t appear to have room for Storen’s salary or arm in their 2016 bullpen, after adding Shawn Kelley, Trevor Gott, Yusmeiro Petit and left-hander Oliver Perez this winter."
Dusty Baker, hired as the Nationals' manager in November, was asked at last month's Winter Meetings if he thought Papelbon would be his closer and if the reliever would be a distraction if he returned?
"I don't see it as a distraction," Baker said. "How am I going to foresee a distraction in advance? I've got to wait until I get there first. I don't even know Papelbon.
"I mean, right now Papelbon is my closer. I'm not one to foresee problems before they become a problem."
Will the Nationals keep saying that Papelbon will close right up to the point that they actually trade him? Is there any chance Storen is in the Nats' bullpen in 2016? Will they part with both this winter... and if they do, do they have to go and get a new closer?
• Morosi also reported that Ian Desmond is talking to the San Diego Padres, though, "no deal appears close":