Late Friday evening, the Blue Jays sent outfielder Ben Revere and a player to be named later to the Washington Nationals in exchange for right-handed relief pitcher Drew Storen and cash. To break down this trade, I’m going to introduce a new feature on Jays Balk called Transaction Triple Play, where I’ll answer the big questions about a trade or roster move.
For this trade, the three big questions are:
- What do we need to know about incoming Drew Storen?
- What do we need to know about outgoing Ben Revere?
- How will this impact the Blue Jays 2016 roster?
Somewhat not surprisingly, there was a strong amount of negative reaction to this trade on Twitter last night. Turns out the fan base is SO disgruntled with the new front office regime, that even trading a player from a position of depth–albeit a very likable one–for a player in a position of need, is very frowned upon. But let’s break it down.
What do we need to know about incoming Drew Storen?
He’s been with the Nationals since 2010, and in that time has amassed 95 saves, with a career-high 43 coming in 2011. He had 29 for the Nats last season, but lost the job in July when the team traded for Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, in a move that choked the life out of their season.
I don’t want to throw a mountain of stats at you, but the bottom line is the Blue Jays added a premier right-handed reliever to their bullpen last night, and that was a major area of weakness as the roster is currently constructed. Storen has been used in high-leverage situations since he came into the league, and gives manager John Gibbons (at minimum) a three-headed monster in the bullpen to rival the Yankees and Red Sox. More on that shortly.
What do we need to know about outgoing Ben Revere?
Apparently, Blue Jays fans fell in love with Ben Revere in two months. Mike Wilner’s twitter timeline is evidence of that. He is a “prototypical” leadoff hitter, in the old sense of the term. He’s a guy who doesn’t strike out a lot, gets on base at a decent clip, can bunt and steal bases. But that type of player doesn’t fit with the construct of the Blue Jays roster–hitting home runs.
Revere was going to be the most expensive of three options to play left field everyday in 2016 (projections have him at $6.7 million in arbitration). Frankly, he was unlikely to replicate his high average and OBP, which were both above his career norms, that he hit in the final two months of 2015. This was the ultimate sell-high time for Toronto, and they capitalized in a big way.
How will this impact the Blue Jays 2016 roster?
This question is three-fold. What happens in left field; who is the new leadoff hitter; and how does this affect the bullpen?
In left field, it’s very simple. Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders will both be given an opportunity to seize the job in spring training. Saunders must prove he is healthy, while Pompey must prove he can hit big-league pitching consistently. If he can’t, he’ll go back to Triple-A Buffalo, be an everyday player there, and come up to be an injury replacement. At his age and stage of development, it doesn’t make sense for him to be a bench player, even in a platoon.
At leadoff, the folks at Sportsnet weighed in, and the overwhelming favourite is Troy Tulowitzki. He hit there for 26 games when he first came over from Colorado, and the Jays won 85% of those games. He might not have been comfortable with it at first, but he was also adjusting to new teammates, a new league, and a new country. Given some time in spring training to acclimate himself, I think he can be a monster ahead of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. (Note: Wilner wrote about this earlier in the offseason, and most of Tulo’s “leadoff struggles” came in the first at-bat of the game. After that, he was pretty darn good. Dig it up in Sportsnet’s archives if you’d like.)
In the bullpen, things get more complicated. Storen is the most experienced closer they have, but do you take the job away from Roberto Osuna after the tremendous job he did down the stretch? Do you employ a setup like the Yankees last season with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances alternating who gets the job based on freshest arm, matchups, etc? John Gibbons likes to have one set guy, and he’s also very loyal, so that leads me to believe Osuna has the job to lose. But he is also loyal to league veterans, regardless of their experience with his club, which could tip the scales to Storen. No matter how things shake out, Brett Cecil will remain a primary 7th inning guy, while also used in highest-leverage spots against lefties.
The biggest wildcard in all this is Aaron Sanchez. Storen can effectively replace the role he held late last season, allowing Sanchez to truly audition for a spot in the starting rotation in spring training. If he dazzles in March, he could slot in behind Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and R.A. Dickey to form a much more impressive rotation than many originally projected. This would send Jesse Chavez to the bullpen and Drew Hutchison to Buffalo.
A less-preferable option is to send Sanchez to Buffalo to build up starters innings. He’s too talented to be down there, in my opinion. If he doesn’t look like he’s going to cut it in the rotation (and there’s a better fifth option available), send him back to the bullpen to create a FOUR-headed monster with Storen, Osuna and Cecil. That bullpen, coupled with the explosive offense, will help win a lot of games for the Blue Jays, no matter how impressive the rotation is.
Whether some fans want to believe it or not, the 2016 club shapes up much better today than it did when we woke up on Friday. And surely there is more to come with spring training still six weeks away.