It’s well known that the Nationals have been trying to trade Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen this offseason. The club found a match for Storen with the Blue Jays on Friday, acquiring outfielder Ben Revere in return, but where does this leave Papelbon?
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was asked that question in a conference call this afternoon. While he didn’t dismiss the possibility of a trade, he indicated that they are planning on having Papelbon in their bullpen in 2016.
Here’s the quote from Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com:
“We make baseball trades. If there’s a baseball trade out there, then we’ll make it. We see Papelbon as being one of our late-inning relievers. He’s been very effective at it his entire career, including last year except for the last portion of the season. This guy is a quality reliever, quality closer. He’s been in the biggest stage that you can be in. He pitched the last out of a World Series game and has a World Series ring. He knows how to win. He brings a swagger to the bullpen and he’s a guy that we’re going to rely on to pitch late and leverage innings.”
It’s not like Rizzo is going to say bad things about someone he’s trying to move, but trading Papelbon has always been easier said than done. In addition to his reputation, he’s owed $11 million in 2016 and has a 17-team no-trade list.
There’s also the question of what the Nationals would do with the back-end of their bullpen if they trade Papelbon. With Storen gone, the internal options include the likes of Felipe Rivero, Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen, Trevor Gott, Yusmeiro Petit, and Oliver Perez. There aren’t many proven options remaining in free agency outside of Tyler Clippard or Antonio Bastardo, so they might just be forced to embrace the awkwardness and keep Papelbon around.
While Papelbon’s 2015 ended in ugly fashion after choking teammate Bryce Harper, the 35-year-old had a 2.13 ERA and 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.