With the trade of Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night, the focus for the Nationals now shifts to their other relief pitcher whom many expect to be dealt this winter. That would be Jonathan Papelbon, who despite getting in a televised fight with Bryce Harper in late September, remains on the roster three months into the offseason.
The Nationals would still like to trade Papelbon and spring training begins in five weeks, but finding a suitor is not an easy task. Storen getting dealt before Papelbon was always a likely scenario, given their difference in values and the obvious difference in urgency for the team.
The Storen trade perhaps illustrates the benefits of being patient. They waited until the second half of the offseason for a guy who had a terrible second half of the 2015 season and whose year was ended due to a self-inflicted injury to his hand. Yet there were still able to acquire a player in Ben Revere who fits perfectly into their future plans.
Getting a Revere-type haul for Papelbon may be unrealistic, as their intentions to trade him are obvious, he is owed $11 million in 2016 and has a partial no-trade clause to leverage. But Papelbon could still interest a team looking for backend bullpen help, especially as the free agent and trade markets continue to play out. Storen going to Toronto represents one less option for teams hoping to acquire a new closer.
The Nationals bullpen remains deep without Storen with the additions of Trevor Gott, Oliver Perez, Yusmeiro Petit and Shawn Kelley. Felipe Rivero and Blake Treinen are two holdovers from last season who are expected to hold spots. There is also a young crop of relievers who debuted in 2015 that includes Matt Grace, Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole and Rafael Martin.
Right now Papelbon projects as their closer, but he is not likely to be on the roster come Opening Day. If he is indeed dealt, the Nats will be fine in terms of depth, but will create questions as to who closes. Felipe Rivero could conceivably fill that role, though inexperience would be an issue.
Shawn Kelley and Trevor Gott, and even Blake Treinen, could fill late-innings roles, as well. But the Nats are not inclined to rely on young relievers in big spots, as they did last year with little success. The acquisition of Ben Revere to replace Michael Taylor as the starting center fielder is yet another indication of the Nationals opting to go for experience over youth. Also, see Trea Turner's once-supposed chances to compete for a starting middle infield spot.
With Storen gone, Papelbon becomes the primary focus. And if he is traded, a whole new crop of questions will emerge for the Nats and their work-in-progress bullpen.
[RELATED: Nationals trade Drew Storen to Blue Jays]