Might The Washington Nationals Be Better Off Keeping Jonathan Papelbon For 2016?


By looking back at a couple of situations, might the Nats be better off keeping Papelbon as their 2016 closer and letting it play out?

After trading Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays, the next question that every Washington Nationals fan wanted to know was what would that mean for Jonathan Papelbon. Right now, Papelbon is the closer, even though most Nats’ fans want him out of town after he put his hands on Bryce Harper’s throat on that September afternoon at Nats Park.

However, as president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo continues to say, he is not going to trade Papelbon for nothing and with Storen now out of DC, there aren’t many options left on either the trade or free agent market. So, while this might not be the most popular choice, what if the Nats did keep Papelbon and his $11 million contract for the 2016 season?

More from District on Deck

Once Storen was traded, I thought about teams who have had several public relations nightmares and went totally different directions. The two situations that came to my mind involved Alex Rodriguez with the New York Yankees and Josh Hamilton with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. While neither player choked their fellow teammate, each had their own form of “baggage”.

Let’s start with Rodriguez. The big story in baseball last spring was A-Rod returning to the Yankees after serving a season-long suspension for his involvement in Biogenesis. With the money New York has, they could’ve easily eaten the contract for a player who had bad hips in 2013. However, they kept Rodriguez on the roster and he hit 33 home runs in 151 games. The 33 homers were the most he had hit in a season since 2008.

More from Nationals News

When you look at the Angels situation, they had signed Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal in 2012. Back in February, Hamilton admitted to having a drug relapse, but baseball found he did not violate the drug program and he would not be suspended. However, owner Arte Moreno decided Hamilton wasn’t worth it and dealt him to Texas. Hamilton ended up making the playoffs with the Rangers while the Angels are still looking to find another left fielder.

Yes, Papelbon is not the best team player, but this is where hiring Dusty Baker as the manager should help because he is a player’s manager. If we can believe that Papelbon and Harper have settled their differences, the Nats’ current closer can still hold down the ninth inning effectively.

Plus, if the Nationals hold onto him and he struggles to start the season, then you can release him at that point as well. While I would personally cut Papelbon, it is understandable if Rizzo decides to keep the 35-year-old on the roster to begin the season. It will be interesting to see how this saga plays out, but with the Storen news, I wouldn’t be surprised if Papelbon stays in DC. Plus, if the Nationals hold on to Papelbon, then they can just release him if he struggles early on.