Jon Lester pushed for the front office to acquire Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies last summer before he was traded to the Nationals. Sunday, Lester told ESPN Chicago that Papelbon would fit in and be welcomed in the Cubs clubhouse if the front office decided to sign the veteran reliever.
The Cubs are believed to be among the teams interested in signing Papelbon, who became a free agent on Saturday when he was released by the Nationals. ESPN Chicago reported “some around baseball said they would be surprised if the Cubs didn’t bring him in for a look.”
The Cubs have issues in the bullpen leading up to Aroldis Chapman. And back-to-back losses to the Cardinals due to meltdowns in the eighth inning only magnified the problem that should improve as long as Hector Rondon stays healthy.
Jon Lester knows Papelbon extremely well from their years together with the Red Sox. John Lackey and David Ross also played with Papelbon. And the Cubs front office drafted and developed Papelbon when Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod called the shots in Boston.
Lester called Papelbon “a great teammate.” Lester had nothing but good things to say about him. Lester also believes Papelbon “still has a lot left to give” on the field.
Papelbon may or may not have anything left based on his performance and declining velocity.
Over his first 29 appearances of the season, Papelbon allowed nine runs, all earned, on 26 hits with eight walks and 27 strikeouts (2.83 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) while holding teams to a .663 OPS. Papelbon was the exact opposite in his last eight appearances.
Papelbon allowed nine runs, eight earned, on nine hits with six walks and four strikeouts (11.37 ERA, 2.68 WHIP). Teams hit .379/.486/.586 for a 1.072 OPS (11-for-29 with three doubles, one home run).
Jonathan Papelbon was 2-4 with 19 saves, a 4.37 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 3.68 FIP in 37 games before the Nationals decided to designate him for assignment, eventually releasing him instead.
In two seasons with the Nationals, Papelbon was 4-6 with 26 saves, a 3.84 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 4.16 FIP in 59 games.
The Cubs have an extremely strong clubhouse, one that has already welcomed and accepted a reliever the players think can help the team win games. If the front office thinks Jonathan Papelbon can still get batters out and he’s willing to pitch in a setup role, there is no reason whatsoever to think Maddon’s lead bulls won’t make sure Papelbon fits in and just does his job.