Mike Rizzo says trading Drew Storen would be difficult

With less than 24 hours to go before the trade deadline, the Nationals continue to be linked to one of the center fielders on the trade market. They’ve been talking to the Twins about a deal for Denard Span, and it’s believed they would have to give up one of their top relievers - Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen - to get the deal done.

Storen, the No. 10 pick in the 2009 draft and the Nationals’ second-year closer, is the bigger commodity; he’s saved 25 games this season for Washington, and has an 0.954 WHIP in 50 1/3 innings.

And while such talk is to be taken with several dozen grains of salt on the eve of the deadline, general manager Mike Rizzo said on Saturday evening he considers Storen part of the Nationals’ core.

“Drew Storen would be a very difficult person to trade,” Rizzo said. “He’s a (23)-year-old terrific closer. He’s very near and dear to our hearts here, because we drafted him, signed him and developed him. He’s definitely a core piece, and he’d be a very difficult guy to trade.”

Now, there’s a subtext to that statement to let the Twins - or other suitors - know it’s going to cost them to get Storen. It doesn’t mean that the Nationals wouldn’t move him, and Rizzo made similar remarks about Matt Capps before the deadline last year, before trading him to Minnesota for Wilson Ramos. But there’s no question the Nationals would be reluctant to move Storen, who looks like he could be a ninth-inning fixture when they’re ready to contend.

For his part, Storen said he’s trying to block out as much of the trade chatter as he can, though he knows he won’t be able to sequester himself from all of it.

“It’s not something I’ve ever dealt with before,” Storen said. “It tests your focus a little bit - you have to shove that stuff out, and just understand that stuff will take care of itself. Regardless of what you’re trying to do, it doesn’t really matter.”