A Drew Storen update - and some money speculation

Just wanted to pass along an update on right-hander Drew Storen, since I know plenty of you are probably clamoring for some bullpen help in the wake of last night’s loss.

After missing several days with a nasty case of strep throat, Storen is ready to go again. He needed time to regain some weight and get his arm back in shape, but could return to the mound for Double-A Harrisburg in tonight’s doubleheader in Reading. Stephen Strasburg pitches the 6:35 game for the Senators, and Byron Kerr will have updates from there.

Storen, the 10th pick in the 2009 draft, has a 1.23 ERA and three saves in six appearances, during which he’s struck out eight and walked one. It’s questionable how soon the Nationals would bring him to the majors, or if they’d have him bypass Triple-A Syracuse, but the way he’s performed could make things interesting.

Now, for the financial piece of this: I realize I’m blatantly ripping off this idea from Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post, who did an excellent job last month explaining the cost savings the Nationals could reap by keeping Stephen Strasburg in the minors until June. And things are more speculative with a reliever than a starting pitcher, because there’s no guarantee Storen would have to be a closer anytime soon. In fact, if Matt Capps keeps pitching well, it’s possible Storen wouldn’t become the Nationals’ closer until 2012. But let’s play the game, with a couple different models for Storen.

The high end of this scenario is the Red Sox’ Jonathan Papelbon, who hit arbitration last year after saving 113 games in his first three seasons with Boston. Papelbon reached three All-Star Games, won a World Series and pitched for one of the premier franchises in baseball. But just play along with me: He got $335,400, $425,500 and $775,000 in his 0-3 years, then settled for $6.25 million last year and $9.35 million this year, avoiding arbitration both times.

Another, possibly more reasonable, example is the Rockies’ Huston Street, who was drafted by Oakland in 2004 and was the A’s closer by 2005. Street saved 76 games in his first three years, posting a WHIP around (or just below) 1.0 each season. He got $316.000, $339,625 and $380,000 in his 0-3 years and made $3.3 million in his first arbitration year with the Athletics, who non-tendered him after the season. When the Rockies picked him up, Street got $4.5 million, and signed a three-year, $22.5 million deal that bought out his final arbitration year at $7.2 million.

Neither of those closers were Super Twos, so it’s also a little difficult to set an exact precedent. But once you’ve had your grain of salt, we can proceed:

Let’s say Storen misses Super Two status this year, but comes up this season and becomes the closer at some point next year. He would then hit arbitration after the 2013 season, making somewhere between $3.3 and $6.25 million in 2014 and somewhere between $4.5 and $9.35 million in 2015. Since Papelbon has gotten roughly $3 million raises each year of arbitration, we’ll put him around $12 million next year, meaning Storen would be looking at something between $7.2 million and $12 million in 2016. If we take the midpoint of those ranges, he’d get $4.775 million in 2014, $6.925 million in 2015 and $9.6 million in 2016, for a total of $21.3 million.

But let’s say Storen comes up early, hits Super Two and gets an extra year of arbitration. So his 2014-2016 salaries become his 2013-2015 salaries. And if we add another year to Storen’s salary structure, at something around a 40 percent raise (which is about where he’s been in our hypothetical arbitration schedule so far), he’d be around $13 million in 2016. That means he’d make $34.3 million from 2013-2016. Subtracting a hypothetical $500,000 or so in 2013 if Storen didn’t reach Super Two status, the Nationals would be spending about an extra $12.8 million by bringing Storen up early and exposing him to Super Two status. That’s not as much as the $18.1 million Sheinin predicted the Nationals could save on Strasburg, but it’s certainly a substantial amount of money. And Storen’s early arrival wouldn’t carry the kind of drawing power that Strasburg’s would, in the form of extra cash from increased ticket sales.

If Storen parallels Street, rather than becoming some type of Street/Papelbon hybrid, the move would cost something around $9.5 million (Street is scheduled to make $7.3 million next year, but a 40 percent raise on his current salary, as per our arbitration schedule, would put him at $10.08 million next year - or put Storen there in 2016).

All this (mostly) amounts to high-minded spitballing, but it at least gives you a framework for Storen.

In terms of bullpen help, the other name to watch is Mike MacDougal, who saved 20 games in 21 appearances last year for the Nationals and signed a minor-league deal with the team this spring after being cut by the Marlins. Manager Jim Riggleman said last week that MacDougal has been looking more like the pitcher the Nationals had last year. But he’s got some of the same problems as Brian Bruney; a heavy fastball that sometimes moves too much for his own good.