They free agency of Jonathan Papelbon isn’t going to be a long one, and might end with him going back to a former team.
As things stand now, it looks like the Boston Red Sox are the closer team to bringing him back than he is to making his debut for the Cubs. John Farrell, the Red Sox manager, has made strong hints towards his team talking to Papelbon, who played in Boston from 2005 until 2011, making four All-Star games and winning one World Series. Cubs manager John Maddon has been a little bit more mysterious, suggesting he doesn’t know of any talks with the reliever, but hasn’t ruled out Papelbon joining the team, which probably means someone from the Cubs is talking to Papelbon.
The Washington Nationals released the 35-year old last weekend at his request, after he preferred hitting free agency a few months earlier (expiring contract) instead of being designated for assignment and getting demoted to the minor leagues. Papelbon was having the worst season of his career and overall hasn’t done very well since joining the Nationals via trade from the Philadelphia Phillies, even losing his closer role to Mark Melancon which the Nationals got from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was less and less used before his release.
The 2015 All-Star had a 4.37 ERA with a 1.457 WHIP while striking out only 2.21 batters per walk, as his velocity has dropped drastically, along with his fly ball to ground ball ratio going in the wrong direction. His ERA went from 2.56 to 4.37 after he allowed nine runs in 3 1/3 innings over his final five outings with Washington. His FIP was actually worse last season during his short time with the Nationals, but overall, this is the season that dropped him from his status as one of the best closers in the majors to someone it’s hard to believe a contending team will sign.
And that’s even before mentioning his clubhouse reputation, which took a massive hit last season when he choked Bryce Harper in the dugout. However, since being released, a number of Nationals teammates have endorsed him saying people make too much of the rumors surrounding Papelbon, while former Red Sox teammate and now Cubs pitcher, Jon Lester, also praised Papelbon and didn’t see any problem with him as part of the team.
Salary-wise, no team will need to pay too much. He was making $11 million on the final season of his contract, and whoever does sign him will only have to pay the pro rated of the major league minimum that’s left this season, which comes to around $130,000.