Boston Red Sox aren’t interested in trading for Jonathan Papelbon


Dave Dombrowski has his work cut out for him revamping a bullpen that was one of the league’s worst this season. The Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations has several options that he could explore to add to his core of relievers, but trading for Washington Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon isn’t likely to be one of them.

Earlier this season a team official revealed that it was “very unlikely” that the Red Sox would consider a trade for Paplebon. Despite the struggles endured by the team’s relievers this season, their stance on a reunion with their former closer hasn’t changed, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.

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That’s probably for the best. The franchise’s all-time saves leader had a tremendous run to begin his career in Boston and has remained among the elite since he left, posting a 2.38 ERA and racking up another 130 saves over the last four years. There’s no doubting his talent, but his effectiveness on the mound is often outweighed by the baggage he carries with him.

The Red Sox allowed Papelbon to walk following the 2011 season because they couldn’t stomach paying a reliever the 4-year, $50 million contract that the Philadelphia Phillies offered him in free agency. The shorter commitment now that his contract is down to its final vesting option season hasn’t made Papelbon any more appealing.

Papelbon wore out his welcome in Philadelphia and made no secret of his desire to be dealt to a contender at the deadline last July. The Phillies acquiesced to his request, but the move to Washington didn’t pan out the way Papelbon anticipated. The Nationals went into a second-half tailspin that took them out of contention and brought tension to the dugout. The frustration boiled over when a confrontation between Papelbon and Bryce Harper ended with the hot-headed closer attempting to choke out his superstar teammate. Papelbon’s tenure in Washington essentially wrapped up from the moment he wrapped his hand around Harper’s throat. The team suspended him for the final few games of the season and are expected to make him very much available in a trade this offseason.

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Even if he can be stolen at a bargain price, the Red Sox want no part of Papelbon’s antics. They’ve seen his act up close before and his outbursts only seem to have gotten worse since he bolted from Boston four years ago.

Concerns of his eventual decline could factor in to why the Red Sox aren’t interested as well. Dombrowski favors power-pitchers, but as he prepares to turn 35-years old next month, Papelbon no longer fits that description. His fastball velocity has lost a few ticks since he left town, dropping from an average velocity of 94.8 MPH in 2011 to 91.1 MPH this season, according to PITCHf/x data collected by FanGraphs.

If Dombrowski were to even look in the direction of the Nationals bullpen he’s more likely to be checking on Drew Storen. The hard-throwing right-hander has tallied 95 career saves, 29 of which came in 2015 before Papelbon came to town to steal the role out from under him. The demotion didn’t sit well with Storen, so if the Nationals find it difficult to trade Papelbon, perhaps they’d consider dealing Storen. Would he be any happier as a setup man in Boston? Perhaps, if he believes he has a better chance of ascending to the closer role by backing up Koji Uehara.

That notion may not be all that unrealistic, considering Dombrowski’s shaky commitment to Uehara, who turns 41 before next season and is coming off of a season-ending injury.

"“People have told me he can fit different roles but also feel comfortable he can close games at this point in his career,” Dombrowski told the Boston Herald. “Right now he’s our closer. That’s the plan. But who knows what will happen?”"

That all depends on who Dombrowski manages to acquire to join Uehara in the bullpen. If it’s someone like Storen that has experience as a closer, we may see some roles shifted around in order to ease Uehara’s workload. If a dominant reliever like Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel were to become available, the Red Sox may jump at the opportunity to trade for one of them.

"“I’m open to trades, I’m open to free agency, I’m open to hard-throwers,” said Dombrowski. “I’m open to basically all of them. Where that’s going to take us, I don’t know.”"

We don’t know where Dombrowski will go in his efforts to enhance his collection of relievers, but one place we know he’s unlikely to go is in the direction of Papelbon.