Washington Nationals Rumors: Nats Interested In Jonathan Papelbon


With four days until the Trade Deadline, the rumors are heating up as the Washington Nationals look to find pieces that will help their team make a run at the championship. Last night, it was reported that the Nationals are interested in landing a closer that currently pitches for one of the teams in their division.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network, the Nats along with the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs are the three teams that are in the running to land Phillies’ closer and former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. The 34-year-old reliever has 17 saves, has yet to blow a save, and has a 1.59 ERA in 37 games. In ten innings this month, Papelbon has had a 0.90 ERA as the Phillies have been 8-1 since the All-Star Break.

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However, even though the Nationals could use bullpen help, there are a couple of factors that could prevent Papelbon from going from Philly to the Nation’s Capital. Here is what Heyman wrote about a possible fit:

"“Washington, an interesting possible destination, has recently entered the fray, and some see the Nats as a real possibility. Although, it would be interesting to see how they could make both Papelbon and current closer Drew Storen, who like Papelbon has been one of the best in the league this year, both happy in a set-up role.” (h/t CBS Sports)"

Heyman makes a good point in that it would be very difficult to convince Papelbon that he should become the eighth inning guy. Plus, do the Nats really want to replace Drew Storen as closer? Storen has saved 29 games in 31 chances and has a 1.73 ERA.

The only reason why that move might happen is because of Papelbon’s postseason experience. The man who won a World Series as a closer for the Red Sox in 2007 has an ERA of 1.00 in 18 appearances, but has not pitched a game in the playoffs since 2009.

The other factor that has stopped teams from heavily pursuing Papelbon is the vesting option in his contract for next season. While he is making $13 million this season, he also can make $13 million next season if he finishes 55 games. He has finished 41 games already this season.

It has been clear that Papelbon has wanted out of Philadelphia for a while. This is what he told the media during All-Star Media Day in Cincinnati on July 13:

"“This is not what I signed up for. I signed up for a team that had won 102 games and was expecting certain things. It didn’t happen, and I tried to ride that ship as much as I can and I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut as much as I can. Like I said earlier, it’s time to ‘you-know-what or get off the pot.” (h/t SB Nation)"

While Papelbon is one of many closers that are on the trade market along with Padres’ closer Craig Kimbrel and Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman, I would rather see the Nationals acquire a reliever/closer who has setup experience. They could acquire one as soon as today.

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Nationals are one of three teams that are in the running for Athletics’ closer Tyler Clippard along with the Mets and Yankees. Clippard was traded to the A’s back in January for Yunel Escobar. This season, he is 1-3 with a 2.79 ERA, but has walked nearly five batters per nine innings.

That being said, Clippard fits in with the Nats more than Papelbon because he can fill in any role for the bullpen. The 30-year-old right-hander is a free agent at the end of the year and has a 2.68 career ERA in seven seasons with the Nationals. While both relievers are good options, it could be Clippard that makes the most sense to come back to the Nation’s Capital and a bullpen that has a 3.39 ERA (eighth in the National League).

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