The Boston Red Sox could always use more help, demonstrated by a number of games lost in the final innings. Does that mean bringing Jonathan Papelbon back?
If the Red Sox were smart, they’d leave that situation alone.
After Papelbon was released by the Washington Nationals, who are leading the National League East division by 8.5 games, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported:
Mark Melancon was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, making Papelbon superfluous. Melancon has 33 saves and a 1.51 ERA in 36 opportunities. Papelbon has 19 saves and a 4.37 ERA in 22 opportunities. Add a major blowup with N.L. MVP Bryce Harper last season and one can see why the move for Melancon was made.
So, why would the Red Sox even consider bringing back their prodigal son? Before Craig Kimbrel became the closer, it was maybe worth a look; however, the warning signs were all there, as BoSox Injection posted months ago, that “the details as to why Papelbon’s poor attitude in Boston and in Philly, along with his omnibus of a contract, make him an opportunity cost that the Red Sox don’t need to make.”
It’s not good to burn bridges for precisely this reason. Papelbon told Bradford months ago that “I would have loved to stay in Boston my whole career and it would have all been great. I don’t know how I would have done in the [Bobby] Valentine era, but … You know me, I kind of fly by the seat of my pants. I go out there and love to compete no matter where I’m at.” With much riding on this season, David Ortiz‘s last one in a Red Sox uniform, can Boston afford to experiment with bringing an old face back into the fold?
The timing of the trade for Melancon says it all: the Nationals didn’t trust Papelbon down the stretch to lead them to the promise land. Allowing eight earned runs on 10 hits, six walks, and only four strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work tends to do that to executives in the front office. Even with all of the troubles that the Red Sox have had with injuries – to Kimbrel and the still-missing-in-action Koji Uehara – and the lack of support from the rest of the bullpen, does that mean Papelbon will help the cause in the American League East?
Despite the recent losses, the Red Sox are still in the hunt, only two games out of the A.L. East race and they also own the second wild card spot, 1.5 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers. The team is starting to have chemistry: the outfielders are young but having fun making highlight-reel catches and providing some offence, Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez are hitting together very nicely and increasing their production, Rick Porcello has rediscovered that he can actually be an ace of a pitching staff (even one that has David Price), and even Clay Buchholz is seeing some success as a reliever and possibly a spot-starter.
And, someone wants to introduce the wild man who tried choking out his former team’s best player over a baseball code violation? Someone wants to bring a man who openly says that he likes to fly by the seat of his pants when he makes decisions that could jeopardize everything that the team is working for? Even if Dave Dombrowski, the president of the Red Sox baseball operations, thinks that Papelbon is worth investigating, someone needs to make sure that Dombrowski also investigates what’s going on in Papelbon’s mind too.