The Cubs interest in Jonathan Papelbon dates back to at least May and contrary to recent reports, the Cubs are still believed to be discussing the veteran closer.
According to a report from Todd Zolecki, the Cubs, Blue Jays and Nationals are pursuing Jonathan Papelbon and the talks are intensifying with the trade deadline five days away. Zolecki said a deal is not imminent or that one will even be made.
The Cubs are not on his no-trade list and Papelbon has said publicly that he would not block a trade to the Blue Jays. It is a must for Papelbon to be used as a closer wherever he is traded. And for that reason it is believed Papelbon would not waive his no-trade rights and approve a deal to the Nationals. Plus, according to Jayson Stark the Phillies would not kick in as much on Papelbon’s contract as the Nationals would like in order to make a deal happen.
With the Cubs and Blue Jays, Jonathan Papelbon could slide into the closer’s role. The Nationals have Drew Storen and he has been pretty effective in the regular season for the Nationals.
Even with the offense struggling due to the young players not making adjustments and the veterans the front office were counting on to pick up the slack not producing, the Cubs focus is to add pitching before the deadline. The Cubs would like to add a starter and late inning reliever to the mix. And while the front office is not opposed to trading for a rental player, the Cubs would prefer to add players to the roster that can help the team beyond this season.
Jonathan Papelbon may be “a little peculiar” as Pete Mackanin, the Phillies interim manager, told the media Friday but he can still produce results.
Papelbon is 2-1 this season in 37 games with a 1.59 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 2.94 WHIP. Papelbon has walked eight batters while giving up 31 hits with 40 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings. And in the saves category, he is a perfect 17-for-17.
The contract appears to be the major hurdle in dealing Papelbon. He has finished 86 of the required 100 games combined during the 2014-15 seasons needed for the $13 million option for next season to become guaranteed. While he continues to get the job done, Papelbon turns 35 years old in November.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are well aware of what Jonathan Papelbon can add to a team and to a clubhouse. And if they needed a first-hand look at him, beyond the information from the scouts, Epstein and Hoyer got it on Friday afternoon.
As is the case with the rotation, beyond Carl Edwards Jr. and Zac Rosscup the options for late-inning relievers are rather thin. And despite the reaction of the fan base from consecutive losses to the Phillies, the Cubs view themselves as in the middle of a playoff race. Even one game in a post-season environment would help a Cubs team that will only go as far as the young position players take them.