The Nats traded Drew Storen for Ben Revere late on Friday night. Let's skip the formalities of a punchy little opening paragraph and get down to the analysis.
Part 1 : The Nats lose Drew Storen.
Many, many fans are happy to see Drew Storen leave because the memories they have of Drew are among the worst in their Nats fandom. Game 5 in 2012. Game 2 in 2014. Pick a Mets game from this year. However let's put on our soulless automaton titanium outer shell for a moment and look at Drew Storen in his time with the Nats.
2010 : Good
2011 : Very Good
2012 : Great with an asterick
2013 : Bad
2014 : Phenomenal until...
2015 : Phenonenal until... (Part 2)
If we could separate it out you would see that the Nats got probably 250+ innings of great relief pitching from Storen. Like 270 innings of under 3.00 ERA pitching with a WHIP around 1.000. That is hard to replace as we all should have learned from last year's trade of Tyler Clippard. True, the Nats plan this year, bring in some intriguing veteran arms, is better than their plan last year, "it'll all work out somehow!", but it's still trading some level of stability for instability.
What level of stability? We don't know. The only bad season Storen had is the season when he was unceremoniously replaced as closer, when it took him a good four months to get his head screwed back on straight about the demotion. This season would have a similar feel to that one. Given that he already started tanking to end last year it was fair to think that level of stability was not that high up there. I think you could expect Storen to be back to normal at some point next year, which is better than hoping you find a replacement arm as good as he has been, but it's not so much better that you can't deal him away and feel ok about it.
Really what should have happened is Drew should have been dealt and someone that was more much stable should have been brought in, but stability is expensive and hard to get. The Nats made a play for O'Day and fell short. They poked around at Chapman but didn't make a deal. They tried as much as they wanted to, but again the Nats fall to cheaper value question marks in the pen. I wish them luck.
As for Storen I wish him luck too. I've said a couple times that Drew really did get a raw deal from the Nats. He was a great closer in 2012 and Davey, in a rare misstep, set him up to fail. You can try to argue that point but you'd be wrong. There was no reason to bring in someone else after that season but Boras needed a landing spot for a client and the Nats are always willing to help Boras out. That was a total screw job. Then after working his way back to the pen Drew found himself in the midst of a season where he had 29 saves in 31 chances with a 1.73 ERA and he got replaced again. I don't see how you can't think that's another screw job. He manned up and didn't let the 2014 mistakes mess with his head or the dealing away of one of his better friends and had an All-Star season. He deserved his shot at redemption.
This is not to say Drew is blameless. The 2013 and 2015 meltdowns were both inexcusable and while I cast nearly zero blame on him for 2012, he gets the full brunt of it for 2014. He was part of the problem. But it's clear to me that the organization did as much to make Drew's time here a mess, as he did. I hope he does great in Toronto and has a decent post-season performance. Perhaps saving a Wild Card game because of course the Yankees will have won the East in my hope.
Part 2 : The Nats get Ben Revere.
The Nats, in Michael Taylor, had a question mark in CF. In his first full season MAT played a great CF, ran the bases well, but only had flashes of belonging in the majors at the plate. Not quite young enough to be a true prospect anymore, the 158 Ks stood out as a big warning sign that perhaps he'd never be quite ready. So while the Nats were set basically everywhere else offensively* the Nats could do something in the OF. They could add a bat that they felt secure about and move MAT to a 4th OF slot. Maybe he forces his way back in, maybe he doesn't but the Nats in that scenario ensure themselves of starting 2016 with 3 major league outfielders.
Instead they got Ben Revere.
Ben Revere is just slightly more of a starter than Michael Taylor. His value is all in his offensive speed as he makes contact, smacks the ball into the ground, and creates base hits for himself. Singles, really. A lot of singles. 312 in the past two years, more than anyone in baseball. He then uses his speed on the basepaths to steal and score and otherwise create havoc. But he doesn't do much else.
His speed doesn't translate to great defense as you think it would making him merely a serviceable outfielder. He has no power (4th lowest isoSLG in the majors last year) and he doesn't take walks (in bottom 30 for BB%). If he's not singling to get on base he is giving you absolutely nothing.
The good news is that there isn't any reason to think he won't single to get on base. He's not particularly old (28 in May). His various speed stats don't indicate any sharp declines. And his contact rate is still high. It is dropping so maybe he doesn't give you an empty .305 but an empty .295 instead but it will be enough to still be equal or better to the average expected season from MAT. Of course MAT has a greater spread of possibilities and is more likely to have a very good season than Revere who almost assuredly won't. Really all the Nats have done is replace one type of 3/4 OF (Power hitting, great fielding, strike-out machine) with another (super speedy singly Joe)
Of course that is what we thought with Span coming into DC at about the same age and he picked it up a notch. Maybe Revere will. Then again Denard had good offensive years, in other forms, before coming to the Nats. Revere really hasn't. Or maybe the Nats will platoon the two, although platoons can be risky as taking days off can have different effects on players.
In the end the problem the Nats solved here was not the one of making sure they have 3 like-to-have-them-starting major league OFs on the squad in 2016. It was the one of making sure they have proper OF depth. Matt denDekker is no longer a possible long term replacement option. Instead it's whichever of Ben Revere or Michael Taylor (or Clint Robinson if Zimm is healthy). That's a better space to be in. So even if the starting team isn't appreciably better the team as a whole is.
I think the Nats are done. I don't think they can deal for a C. I don't think they bother signing an OF. I think Papelbon is here unless someone makes what is essentially a fair deal for an All-Star talent closer. I think this puts the payroll at a middle ground between trying to be the best 160 and we are 2nd tier 130. Which is fine. But we'll see. There's still over a month till pitchers and catchers and nearly two until Spring Training. Plenty of time and a lot of assets out there. Let's see if 2016 can be the all-in season 2015 never got to be.
*Ramos, while set, is probably the only other place you could replace. SS is not set with an individual but it's clearly a set Danny to Trea plan