Trade rumors are nothing new for Drew Storen, so when a new round of speculation surfaced this winter, the Nationals reliever didn’t worry about it.
“No, I didn’t,” he said Saturday at NatsFest. “It’s part of the business. You read it and … eh, whatever happens. You never really know the full story. It’s kind of funny. Once I dealt with it the first time in 2011, it just kind of rolls off.”
Storen has been hearing his name attached to trade rumors since July 2011, when the Nationals were in serious talks with the Twins about a deal that would have sent Storen to Minnesota and brought Denard Span to Washington. That transaction, of course, never happened, and Span wound up coming to the Nationals last winter in a trade for prospect Alex Meyer instead.
Since then, the right-hander’s name has come up several more times, including this offseason. When word of the Nationals’ December trade for Doug Fister began to surface, speculation immediately focused on Storen as a potential return for the Tigers. (The Nats ultimately sent Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray to Detroit.)
Then came last week’s revelation that the Nationals were engaged in talks with free agent reliever Grant Balfour, which prompted more speculation Storen would be prime trade bait if the signing happened. Balfour wound up signing with the Rays.
General manager Mike Rizzo said Saturday he’s not looking at any more prominent relievers, and he’s also not initiating any trade talks with other clubs. So Storen has no reason to believe he won’t be reporting to Viera with the rest of his teammates in 18 days for the start of his fifth spring training with the Nationals.
In the meantime, he’s focused on picking up where he left off at the end of 2013. A tumultuous season saw Storen lose his closer’s job to Rafael Soriano, then get demoted to Class AAA Syracuse after posting a 5.95 ERA in 47 appearances. Once he returned to the big leagues in August, Storen was highly effective, with a 1.40 ERA in 21 games.
Storen’s strong finish coincided with the Nationals’ overall strong finish, something that left a much better taste in his mouth when he departed for the winter.
“It’s huge,” he said. “Whether on a personal level or a team level, any time you face adversity it’s about getting your head above water. The direction we were headed at the end of the season, that really helps us to build on this year. Last year we could’ve mailed it in and really felt sorry for ourselves. But we fought, we came through it on the other side, and I think that’s going to be huge for us.”