Do Red Sox Actually Want Papelbon Back?

News of Jonathan Papelbon’s release from the Washington Nationals prompted rumors about a possible return to Boston. It only makes sense, especially since he helped the Red Sox win a World Series in 2007. The 35 year-old reliever spent the last few seasons in Philadelphia and Washington, but sometimes mentioned that he had a place in his heart for Boston. The question is, does Boston want Jonathan Papelbon back?papelbon back

Definitely.

According to the New York Post, Dave Dombrowski stated that it is “worth investigating” when asked about Papelbon’s possible return. It’s likely that Dombrowski and John Farrell want to bring Papelbon back to Boston. Farrell, however, is clear that Craig Kimbrel is still Boston’s closer. That doesn’t mean that Papelbon wouldn’t have a place in the Red Sox bullpen. Papelbon is a dominant relief pitcher. Boston needs more of that right now.

Consider this: Papelbon accumulated 19 saves with the Washington Nationals this season. That’s almost TWICE as many saves as the Red Sox bullpen has accumulated this season (when you take Craig Kimbrel out of the equation). So could Boston use Papelbon? Definitely!

While Papelbon is fondly remembered in Boston, Philly and Washington fans feel differently. In 2014, Papelbon grabbed a part of his anatomy and gestured toward a booing fan after blowing a save. While Papelbon denied it by saying he had to adjust himself, it wouldn’t be the last time he found trouble. Last year, Papelbon and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper exchanged blows in the dugout after Harper flied out in the eighth. Papelbon apparently threw the first punch because he didn’t appreciate Harper’s failure to get on base. While both parties claimed to have resolved the issue afterwards, it left a bad taste in Nationals’ fans mouths, as well as that of the front office. So it came as little surprise when Papelbon requested, and received, a release from the Nationals.

It’s clear that Papelbon isn’t the pope. Ironically, my priest, Father Jim Gallagher, told me that Papelbon in Latin is “good pope.” So while his name might make for a good joke, his pitching is anything but. Since breaking into the majors in 2005, the six-time All-Star has accumulated 368 saves over twelve seasons. 219 of those saves were when he was in Boston. In fact, he currently ranks 3rd among active pitchers for all time saves, and 9th overall. Additionally, Papelbon is only 22 behind Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley. How great would it be to see Papelbon pass Eckersley wearing a Boston uniform?

Yes, Boston Does Want Jonathan Papelbon Back!

Philadelphia didn’t want Papelbon. Washington happily obliged him when he requested a release. Since leaving Boston, Papelbon has mentioned how much he loved being with the Red Sox. Dombrowski and Farrell are interested in him. Even David Ortiz wants him back! Before the Red Sox played the Orioles Wednesday night, Ortiz told ESPN Deportes, “I don’t know what happened there at the Nationals, but he was a great guy and we would welcome him back with open arms.” I don’t know about anyone else, but it looks like Papelbon’s return to Boston would be a great fit.

Can the Red Sox Trust Koji Uehara?

koji uehara

Starting in July of 2013, there was a stretch where Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara appeared to be immortal. Rounding out the 2013 regular season by allowing just one run in his final 29 appearances, he took on the role of closer and had one of the most dominant stretches in big league history.
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Dominant, for Uehara, carried over well into the post-season where he was flawless once again and into the 2014 regular season. By June 16th, his ERA stood at a minute 0.57 and while the rest of the team was mediocre at best, he was still absolutely dominant.

After that date, he was still an excellent closer, one of the best in the league, but he startedkoji uehara to prove his one major flaw—he was mortal.
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Late in the year, Uehara who had been used to a much lighter workload, started to show signs of fatigue as he had a few suspect outings from August 16th onward. From that point in the season forward, he surrendered ten earned runs in his final 7.2 innings of work on the year, nine appearances in total.

Blowing three saves in that time span without recording a single one, he was demoted out of the closer role in favor of Edward Mujica, who was a perfect six for six in save opportunities from August 13th until the end of the season.
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Set to turn 40 years old before Opening Day this season, Uehara might pose a question mark for Boston headed into the 2015 season as he is getting up there in age and struggled quite a bit late in 2014.

What seemed to be the problem last year is that Boston used him too much over the past two seasons; he logged 152.1 frames out of the bullpen (playoffs and regular season) in 2013-2014. The previous two years, he went just 103.1 innings.

As of now, the Boston Red Sox still have a plan B in Edward Mujica, but they might be apt to deal him this spring if they are confident in Uehara. Hopefully, they hang onto Mujica—just in case they need him.
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If not, trading for Jonathan Papelbon is always an option…

Trade Decisions Pending, Do the Red Sox Need a Closer or Starting Pitcher?

red sox need a closer

With Andrew Bailey floundering, who should the Red Sox turn to close out games? Courtesy of boston.com

With regard to the trade deadline, do the Red Sox need a closer, or do we need a starting pitcher? I believe that we can cultivate a starting pitcher within our minor league ranks. I am very confident of it based on the talent that I know teems within the minors. Brandon Workman just moved up to Triple-A. Anthony Ranaudo seems poised to make a move soon, too. Drake Britton is another Portland Seadog that is a pretty strong pitcher. We have the manpower. John Farrell has not been shy about searching the farm system for the right pitching combinations needed against a given team. Pedro Beato was a great recent decision. That solves some of the starting pitching issues we may encounter over the course of the season. Starting pitchers can be cultivated. What we cannot cultivate is a closer.

Closers are a chosen class. They are not molded. They must be mentally strong enough to handle the pressure of the two crucial innings at the end of the game. A closer must be physically dominant in a clutch, but more importantly mentally built for this kind of work. The mindset, the mental game, is the most important aspect of exceptional relievers.

So where do we go from here? There is lots of chatter about Jonathan Papelbon. I do not know how he will be received by Red Sox nation after his appearance at Fenway Park earlier in the month. There must be other guys out there, too. Is Dennis Eckersley available, or 1967’s John Wyatt? We all know these guys can throw some “cheese.”

red sox need a closer

Does Eck still have it? Courtesy of vintagecardprices.com

Will Papelbon be released from the Phillies? Are there other players out there? It appears there is chatter about other people. Who knows, though? Talk is cheap. We still have time. Let’s make some decisions.