TORONTO – The payoff from the acquisition of Drew Storen didn’t come from the right-hander’s work on the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays. There’s no way to sugar-coat it — that end of the deal worked out terribly, given the role he was expected to fill.
Rather, the reward from Storen’s time with the Blue Jays, which came to an end Sunday when he was designated for assignment, was that his presence allowed Aaron Sanchez to end up in the rotation, opened up left field for Michael Saunders (who was nearly traded for Jay Bruce, but that’s another matter) and created a role for Ezequiel Carrera, who is out of options and may have been otherwise lost.
Those are all by-products of the Jan. 8 trade that sent left-fielder Ben Revere to the Washington Nationals for Storen. The Blue Jays did the right thing by recognizing they couldn’t give him the innings he needed to get himself right. They needed Storen to be much better and could use his roster spot more effectively.
“Obviously accountable for that, that’s not the outcome you’re looking for, that’s not the outcome Drew Storen is looking for, either,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “If you look at the rest of the team and how that impacted some other guys, not that there are benefits to subtraction, but sometimes there are opportunities given to other guys because of the way a roster changes.”
Later, he added, “it got to the point where we had better alternatives, really.”
Those alternatives include set-up man Jason Grilli, whose late May pickup has been life raft for the Blue Jays bullpen, and fellow right-hander Bo Schultz, who’s earning more and more confidence since his return from hip surgery.
Storen has shown flashes of effectiveness but the overall body of work — a 6.21 ERA and 1.590 WHIP in 33.1 innings over 38 games despite 8.6 strikeouts per nine — made this move inevitable. The Blue Jays tried to help him work around a dip in his fastball velocity, down from an average of 94 mph in 2015 to 91.9 mph this year, and none of the changes to his sequencing and more frequent usage of a cutter took long enough.
Factor in that the Blue Jays couldn’t find him the innings he needs to correct himself and his lack of usefulness in essentially mop-up duty, and the Blue Jays did what’s best for him, as much as themselves, too.
“One is his role,” Atkins said in identifying what might have gone wrong for Storen. “(Manager John Gibbons) did a great job of trying to keep him in his role that he was used to, a later inning role, he’s actually more accustomed to being a closer, so right out of the gates he was in unfamiliar territory and as guys pitched better than him, he was moved into a role where he was going to be needed earlier in the game and in more versatile stints. That was unchartered waters. That was one aspect of it, and I think another aspect of it is his fastball is just a little bit down.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to weather this adjustment long enough.”
The Blue Jays have 10 days to either trade, release or assign Storen and a deal might be possible as there’s been some past interest in him from teams who believe he simply needs a reboot. His slider remains a major weapon and a change of scenery can be a boon sometimes.
There won’t be much of a return, so the Blue Jays will have to live with the benefits of opening up his roster spot, and the positives from the chain of events his acquisition created.