Posted on August 31, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
It looks increasingly likely that free agent reliever Jonathan Papelbon will not pitch again in 2016. According to a report from WEEI radio station in Boston, Papelbon is unlikely to sign with a major league club by the end of the day Wednesday. That report cites a major league source. Papelbon would still be able to pitch with a team if he signs after Wednesday, but if he does not sign before the calendar flips to September he will not be eligible to pitch in the postseason for that team.
Papelbon last pitched on August 6. Soon afterwards he was released by the Washington Nationals. He had previously lost his job as Washington’s closer and has had the worst season of his career with the Nationals this year, posting a 4.37 ERA in 37 appearances.
Immediately after his release from the Nationals, many believed Papelbon would end up signing with the Boston Red Sox, a team that has suffered a slew of injuries to its bullpen this season. Papelbon pitched for the Red Sox from 2005 when he made his big league debut to 2011, so a homecoming for Papelbon seemed to make sense and was seen by some as inevitable.
The Red Sox, as well as other major league teams, appeared to have genuine interest in signing Papelbon soon after his release from the Nationals. However, Papelbon seemed intent on taking his time, telling teams that inquired that he was “not ready to make a decision,” citing personal reasons. Red Sox manager John Farrell, as well as several Red Sox players, have reportedly reached out to Papelbon over the past several weeks, indicating that he would be welcomed back to Boston with open arms. But that did not push Papelbon into signing with the Red Sox, or any other team.
Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski shed some light on the matter from the Red Sox perspective earlier this week. “We had interest in him, and we expressed that to him,” Dombrowski said. “John Farrell spoke with Jonathan Papelbon, and I think a couple of our players spoke to him, too. For his own personal reasons, he’s just decided so far not to sign. I’m not sure if he’s going to sign or not. I know he has a lot of strong feelings about Boston if he decides to sign. It’s just more of a situation where his agent says he’s not ready to make a decision.”
At this point, it would be hard to envision Papelbon making much of an impact for any team, even if he were to sign before midnight on Wednesday. It’s unknown if Papelbon has been throwing since being released by the Nationals. If he hasn’t been throwing, it may not make much sense to sign him considering how much time it would take for him to prepare himself to pitch in a major league game.
Papelbon’s personal reasons for not signing with a team remain unknown. It seems odd that a player as competitive as Papelbon would not want to immediately sign with a new team, especially if he had the chance to pitch for a team heading to the postseason. Perhaps he’s discouraged at his performance this season and too prideful to pitch if he can’t perform at a high level. Regardless of the reasons, Papelbon’s 2016 season appears to be over. Whether he attempts to sign with a team this offseason or we unknowingly saw his career come to an end earlier this month remains to be seen.