Nationals trade Drew Storen to the Blue Jays for Ben Revere

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The Nationals have traded reliever Drew Storen to the Blue Jays in exchange for outfielder Ben Revere, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. James Wagner of the Washington Post adds that the Nationals will also receive a player to be named later and the Blue Jays will receive cash considerations.

Storen, 28, is entering his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility and is projected to earn $8.8 million according to MLB Trade Rumors. The right-hander has had a tumultuous tenure with the Nationals. He started out the 2015 season in exquisite fashion, posting a 1.73 ERA through his first 38 appearances.

However, the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies near the end of July, and he usurped the closer’s role from Storen. Between Papelbon’s arrival and September 9, Storen — pitching mostly in the eighth inning and in lower-leverage situations — compiled a 6.75 ERA with worse strikeout and walk rates. Storen’s season ended after his September 9 appearance against the Mets, as he broke his thumb slamming his locker in anger.

It remains to be seen if Storen will assume the Blue Jays’ role as closer from Roberto Osuna, or if he will set up. The club should provide some clarity on the situation in the near future.

Revere, 27, hit a combined .306/.342/.377 between the Phillies and Blue Jays. The Phillies sent him to Toronto at the trade deadline for two minor league pitchers. Revere has two more years of arbitration eligibility left and his projected to earn $6.6 million by MLB Trade Rumors.

Michael Taylor was expected to get a shot at playing every day for the Nationals with Denard Span hitting free agency, but instead, Revere will handle center field and lead off for the Nationals.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.