Should the Red Sox Pursue Jonathan Papelbon?

Aug 1, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 1, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Can Jonathan Papelbon help strengthen the Boston Red Sox bullpen?

October 28, 2007 came a brisk night in Denver, Colorado, where the Boston Red Sox closed out a 4 game to zero sweep over the Rockies to capture their 2nd World Series in the last 4 years. Closing out the final batter of that Fall Classic was former Red Sox Closer RHP Jonathan Papelbon, who was a key center piece in the bullpen during his time in Boston.

Papelbon, who hasn’t been with the club since 2011 made four straight All-Star Game appearances with the Red Sox (2006-09). Since then “Pap” has played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals and hasn’t been the same dominant pitcher we saw here in Boston.

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Just last week Papelbon asked for his release from the NL-East leading Washington Nationals, he is having statistically one of his worst seasons yet (4.37 ERA). Papelbon, 35, was moved out of the closer’s role when the Nationals acquired Mark Melancon at the trade deadline from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the first time he was not a closer since taking over full-time duties for the Red Sox more than a decade ago. Nationals Manager Dusty Baker used him twice since that deal, both times in mop-up duty, but never found a consistent role for him.

The big question has been for the past week, with the Boston Red Sox having a lot of trouble with inconsistency from their bullpen, should they sign Papelbon? He had a lot of success earlier in his career in Boston, he amassed 219 saves here over seven seasons, but seemingly caught a bit of an ego when he signed a five-year, $61 million free agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012.

Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was Papelbon’s pitching coach during his time in Boston, apparently wants him back. “Pap is a unique guy in many ways,” Farrell said. ”He’s a guy who thrives in the moment and thrives to be in critical spots in the game. While that closer role might be a thing behind him, the intangibles as a competitor haven’t changed. “We don’t know if he’s coming back here, but going back to where you’ve been before there’s a lot of known aspects to that. Certainly the electricity of Fenway brings out the best in everybody. And you see it when visiting teams come in. We see it with our own guys. Our fans energize every player who steps on the field. If this comes to fruition, whether it adds some adrenaline remains to be seen.”

The consensus of baseball writers is that Papelbon is quite the “hot-head”, reasoning to believe includes his confrontation with Nationals OF Bryce Harper last year for not running out a ground ball, and just his overall high ego that makes other ball clubs look elsewhere. I think he would be a tremendous fit for the Red Sox, the 6-time All-Star has played in October and really has experience that some of these young inexperienced relief pitchers truly need to help get this ball club over the top.

Although Papelbon is statistically having one of his worst seasons, a change to a familiar venue could be exactly what the 35-year old needs. With the Red Sox bullpen being beat up for most of the season with injuries to Koji Uehara, Junechi Tazawa, and Craig Kimbrel I could see Papelbon being great insurance toward a set-up position in the Sox bullpen. With the offense topping every statistical category in baseball this season, the Red Sox pitching staff has hurt this team all year.

If the Red Sox decide to add Papelbon maybe Red Sox Nation will cringe less in the late innings as it hasn’t been pretty for a big chunk of this season.

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