As the Washington Nationals find themselves once again at the center of offseason transaction talk, two big Nats players found their way in the discussion. One of them was Ryan Zimmerman, the other was Drew Storen. Will already covered the Prince Fielder situation yesterday, so today we’ll talk about Storen.
Let’s be clear before we even start. It’s impossible to not love Storen if you’re a Nats fan. He’s friendly, intelligent, eloquent, and a damn good baseball player. He signed with the Nats mere hours after he was drafted right behind Stephen Strasburg, saying repeatedly that he wanted to be in DC, and he wanted to be there to help the team turn it around. He’s been integral in that turnaround so far. However, if there’s one thing that we know is true based on experiences around baseball, it’s that closers can be replaced much easier than say, a center fielder.
Let’s take one of the most coveted CFs in baseball: Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates. MLBTR.com reported yesterday that the Pirates front office would listen on McCutchen, though the deal would be difficult to do. This hypothetical Storen for McCutchen deal is just that, hypothetical, for many reasons. Not the least of which is the Pirates already have a closer in former Nats RP Joel Hanrahan that they like quite a bit.
In the 2011 campaign, McCutchen posted nearly ideal numbers that the Nats would be looking for in a CF. He hit .259, which is a bit low, but posted an impressive .820 OPS with 23 home runs and 23 stolen bases. His wOBA was .360, and his WAR was 5.7. That 5.7 WAR would have been the best on the Nats roster in 2011 by more than 2 full wins. The Pirates CF is just 25 years old and still has the “prime of his career” ahead of him. Any team that wouldn’t give up some great pieces for this player would be crazy. That is especially true for the Nationals that have been desperate for a center fielder for 7 seasons now.
Now, there are other reasons why this trade wouldn’t happen besides what we’ve already discussed. Namely, the Nationals would have to include many, many more pieces than Storen in the deal. The Pirates would be nuts to lose McCutchen for any less than 2 major league ready players plus mid-to-high level prospects from the Nats ever-deepening farm system.
Honestly, I don’t think this would be the worst deal in the world to make, even with some other high level talent. McCutchen has many, many years of success and improvement ahead of him. He could hit almost anywhere in the order, can reach any part of center field he desires despite an average 3.5 UZR, and provides an unique speed and power combination that the Nationals, or that any team, would love to have.
Drew Storen is an outstanding baseball player, one capable of 50 saves and a deep career. However, besides Mariano Rivera, not many closers have long term success at that position. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to try to maximize on Storen’s early successes. While this is almost surely a pipe dream, it is interesting to dream sometimes, isn’t it?