Nationals, Blue Jays Sensibly Swap Storen, Revere

Sometimes, it’s only natural to wonder why it took so long for a trade to come to fruition. In an ideal world, the Nationals would have found a free agent outfielder with whom they could agree upon terms. In an ideal world, the Blue Jays would have found a free agent reliever with whom they could agree upon terms. Our world is less than ideal, though, and neither team found a fit. So a match was made between the two. Drew Storen will pitch high-leverage innings for the Blue Jays, now. As a result, Ben Revere will slap singles, run fast, and play the outfield for the Nationals.

This isn’t a trade that will make a monumental impact, either way. Revere, at his very best, is something like a three-win player who’s actually more like a two-win player, and the Nationals can keep him for another year after this one if they feel he’s deserving of a fourth trip to arbitration. Storen, at his very best, is something a two-win player who’s probably more like a one-win player, and he’s set to be a free agent after this season. Both will earn somewhere between five and ten million dollars this year. Nothing here moves any kind of needle too much. If it did, it wouldn’t make so much sense.

The Blue Jays, presumably, saw an opportunity. Between Revere, Dalton Pompey, and Michael Saunders, Toronto felt they had a surplus of left fielders of a similar caliber and that, by moving one, they could improve another facet of the roster without losing much in left. Saunders is hurt too often to have any trade value, and the Blue Jays probably weren’t too keen on the idea of trading Pompey, given his youth and years of cheap control. Also, the upside. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that Pompey was considered the more enticing piece than Kevin Pillar, and look at how much Pillar already means to Toronto. Saunders and Pompey weren’t great trade candidates, from Toronto’s perspective, and so it only made sense to move Revere, who on a per plate appearance basis might have been the team’s third-best option in left field anyway:

Ben Revere vs. Blue Jays Left Fielders
Ben Revere 547 .299 .330 .365 .066 92 2 29 -4.3 1.4 1.5
Dalton Pompey 427 .247 .311 .369 .122 87 8 19 -0.5 1.2 1.7
Michael Saunders 355 .246 .324 .415 .169 103 10 6 -0.6 1.2 2.0
SOURCE: ZiPS/Steamer projections

If Saunders can stay healthy, which, granted, seems like a tall order given his track record, but if he can stay healthy, we’ve little reason to believe he won’t hit righties. When Saunders doesn’t play in left, Pompey will, and Pompey’s place on the roster will also help to spell Pillar, who appeared in 159 games last year and plays a physically demanding style of center field.

For a negligible loss in left field, the Blue Jays receive a significant upgrade to the bullpen. Storen being in the Opening Day bullpen means someone like Bo Schultz or Ryan Tepera doesn’t have to be, and it moves lesser relievers down the pecking order in terms of who’s tasked with pitching the most important innings. In a way, the addition of Storen could be seen as adding some rotation depth, too — by asking less of Aaron Sanchez in the bullpen, it becomes easier for Toronto to stomach a return to the rotation necessitated by injury or performance loss suffered by a member of the Opening Day rotation.

Storen’s coming off a season with a career-best strikeout rate and his fastest fastball in years, and his breaking ball has started to look like the one that Jose Fernandez throws. Storen joins Brett Cecil, who has (quietly?) turned into one of the 10 or so most dominant relievers in baseball over the last few years, and Roberto Osuna, who debuted as something like a two-win reliever while being the youngest player in baseball. Seems like contending teams are placing a greater emphasis on having three true “lockdown” relievers at the end of their bullpen these days. Now, nobody can argue the Blue Jays don’t have that.

In Washington, it seemed inevitable that Storen and Jonathan Papelbon would cease to coexist in the same bullpen. After the Papelbon-Bryce Harper choking incident, it might have been logical assume Papelbon would be the one to go, but now it sounds like the club plans to stick with the vociferous veteran. The Nationals have done plenty to upgrade their relief corps this offseason, adding a young and intriguing Trevor Gott, a previously successful but recently less-successful swingman in Yusmeiro Petit, and an equal replacement for, or perhaps upgrade over, Storen in Shawn Kelley.

And with Revere, the Nationals may not have found the ideal everyday option in center field for which they sought, but rather a fine complementary piece to the incumbent Michael Taylor. Revere possess elite speed and elite contact ability, which help keep his production steady whether batting against a righty or lefty. Taylor hits lefties well, but struggles against righties; last year, the 24-year-old was likely exposed as a role player forced into an everyday role. Now, the Nationals can maximize Taylor’s talents by deploying him more efficiently. He’s a plus defender in center with good speed and surprising pop, making for a perfect fourth outfielder.

Revere certainly has his shortcomings — perhaps the worst arm in baseball and a complete lack of power — but he also comes with a certain amount of predictability, and that’s got its value. Revere is going to hit around .300. Revere is going to steal plenty of bases. Revere is going to put the ball in play and force the defense to make a play. He also serves as insurance for the oft-injuerd Jayson Werth — you’d rather his glove be in left, anyway.

And, though there’s almost no real upside in Revere’s bat due to his lack of power, we can say this about his offensive game: last year was Revere’s best season to date. Since he entered the league, his rate of pitches pulled has been trending upward, and his rate of balls hit in the air has been trending upward. Revere is never going to hit home runs, and with speedy guys like Revere or Billy Hamilton, you usually want to see them hit it on the ground, but it’s tough to take advantage of elite speed on when everyt batted ball hit is a roller through the infield. Revere’s started hitting more line drives to the gap in right-center and down the first base line, allowing more opportunities to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Make no mistake, Revere is still as slappy a slap hitter as there is, and in the end these trends won’t mean much, but you’d rather him be trending in this direction than the other.

Part of building a roster is acquiring the elite, top-end talent to put a team over the top, and in this case, that doesn’t apply. But the Blue Jays and Nationals have already done that. The other part of the team-building equation is acquiring depth, and making the most out of what talent you do have. Sometimes, a simple trade like this is all it takes to improve the latter. If everything goes according to plan for Washington and Toronto, this is likely a largely inconsequential deal. It’s when things don’t go according to plan, and they rarely do, that in July, you’re glad your team made that little swap back in January.

August used to cover the Indians for MLB and, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at

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David Palardymember
8 years ago

Nationals can’t get enough of that 2012 Twins outfield.