If you break down the Boston Red Sox’ “greatest players in franchise history” by position, you’ll find a gem or two: Ted Williams in left field, Fred Lynn in center and Dwight Evans in right — a loaded infield with the likes of Wade Boggs, Nomar Garciapara and Dustin Pedroia — and Pedro Martinez and Carlton Fisk making up the battery.
If you take a peek into the back of Boston’s “all-time” bullpen, it’s hard to argue that you wouldn’t find Jonathan Papelbon. With Boston, the right-hander compiled 219 saves, on the back of a 2.33 ERA and 509 strikeouts. He was the anchor in Boston’s bullpen for the better half of seven years, helping them win a World Series in the process.
Could he be on his way back to Fenway Park?
Per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Phillies have been pushing Boston to make a move and trade for their former All-Star closer:
Right now, and it may change, we’re not sure the Red Sox have a closer they can depend on. Koji Uehara’s velocity is down about 3 miles per hour across the board with his splitter and fastball. The Phillies are trying to hook the Red Sox on bringing back Jonathan Papelbon.
There is no denying that Koji Uehara hasn’t been a gift from the baseball gods for Boston — a 1.83 career ERA in Boston, with an impressive 10.9 strikeouts/nine innings with 50 saves — but Father Time has a way of catching up with everyone.
Now at the ripe age of 40-years young, Uehara has seen a stark decline in the velocity of his fastball — 88.0 mph in 2014 to 86.1 mph in 2015. Uehara took quite the beating on the mound in the final months of 2014, and albeit just 4.1 innings pitched, he’s sitting with a 4.15 ERA in the current season.
Boston has high expectations this season after bulking up their lineup with the likes of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, but there would be a bit of a glass ceiling if the bullpen can’t close out games.
Philadelphia believes they have the solution in disgruntled closer Jonathan Papelbon. He’s made it clear in the past that if Philadelphia doesn’t turn it around, he wouldn’t mind a move:
“Yeah, I will be (disappointed if the Phillies don’t trade him),” he told CSNPhilly.com. “If we continue to lose. “If we can rebuild this situation and make it right, and we can get some wins underneath our belt and Ryne Sandberg can get us going, that’s a whole different story. To me, that’s a better part of the story because now I’ve been a part of this remodeling. I’ve been part of getting this bullpen correct. I’ve been a part of something that’s becoming a winning tradition and going back to the way it was before I got here. To me, there’s no better reward than that.” – Mike Cole, NESN
The Phillies currently stand at 7-12, last place in the National League East. While it is early, it’s hard to see a team that gives Cody Asche, Cameron Rupp and Jeff Franceour any legitimate playing time turn it around. Philadelphia appears to be ready to “blow it up” and enter the dreaded rebuilding phase, and moving Papelbon might just be the first domino to fall.
Papelbon thrived in Boston, especially under former pitching coach and current manager John Farrell. If Papelbon truly does want out Philadelphia (and the way things are trending, can you blame him?) a return to Boston may be the best thing for him.
he is owed roughly $12.5 million until the end of this season, but he’s coming off of a season in which he posted a 2.04 ERA out of the closers role. Essentially, he might just be worth the money for a team who could use an addition to their ‘pen.