Could the Nationals really send Drew Storen to the minors?

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Aaron asked earlier today just how much spring stats actually matter. The general consensus is that they shouldn’t hold much weight, especially with more established players. For instance, the Orioles aren’t going to cut Luke Scott just because he entered tonight’s action with an .067 batting average over his first 30 at-bats this spring. They have the past to tell them that he’s probably going to be just fine when the games count.

But what about a former first-round pick reliever who has less than one year of major league experience under his belt?

Keep in mind, this is an unlikely scenario, but after Drew Storen gave up three runs — including a pair of home runs — in one inning against the Cardinals earlier today, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post presented an interesting scenario where the 23-year-old right-hander could begin the season in the minor leagues.

Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez are out of options. The Nationals signed Todd Coffey to a $1.35 million contract this offseason. Sean Burnett, dating back to last year and continuing this spring, has been awesome. Doug Slaten has an option remaining, but he and Burnett are the only left-handed relievers in camp.

There’s five of seven relief spots. Two remain for Storen, Broderick and Gaudin. Keeping both Broderick, 24, and Gaudin, 27, would make for an awkward bullpen composition – both are long-relief or back-of-the-rotation types. But Broderick, as a Rule 5 pick, would have to stay on the 25-man roster all season in order for the Nationals to keep him. And Gaudin would have to pass through waivers if the Nationals tried to send him to the minors, something one scout said will not happen.

With them both pitching so well this spring, the Nationals will have a tough decision to make. The surest way to hold on to all their talent would be send one of their relievers with options – Storen or Slaten – to Class AAA Syracuse to start the season.

And this wouldn’t just be about options or pausing his service time. Storen, who entered spring training as the favorite for the closer role, has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 14 hits over just 6 1/3 innings during exhibition action.

While I find this scenario logical and perhaps even plausible, most (including Kilgore) believe that Storen will be with the Nationals on Opening Day. And that’s the way it should be. Unless Storen is hiding an injury or has completely lost his mechanics, it’s unlikely that a handful of appearances will change the way the Nationals feel about him. At the very worst, Jim Riggleman may just use Tyler Clippard and/or Sean Burnett for early save chances.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.