Report: Nats “making progress” towards Papelbon deal

The Philadelphia Phillies might have finally decided to stop beating around the bush and might actually start selling out their big-money players.

With Cole Hamels almost certainly expected to be moved before Friday at 4 ET, it’s starting to look like Jonathan Papelbon might also be on the move, and according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Washington Nationals have made significant progress towards acquiring the veteran closer.

Papelbon, owed $13M this year, has had a phenomenal season thus far that has included his first All-Star game appearance since 2012. He is currently in the last year of a 4-year, $50M deal he signed prior to the 2012 season. Papelbon does have a vesting option that vests if he finishes 48 games this year (34 so far). That option is also worth $13M.

The Nationals, who are in desperate need for bullpen depth, have a great closer of their own in Drew Storen (29 saves, 1.73 ERA), but need some help in late innings. Papelbon, though, has said in the past that he’s only willing to move to a team that will let him close. The 34 year-old has a full no-trade clause that provides him with full control of his fate.

In trading for Papelbon, the Nats bring a veteran arm with postseason experience to help Storen out, mainly given Storen’s woes during the 2012 and 2014 postseason. The 27 year-old appeared in 2 games in last year’s divisional series, pitching in 1 inning and a third, allowing four hits and one run. Papelbon would provide the Nats with late-inning assurance in high-pressure games come October.

Of course, in order for Papelbon’s 2016 option to vest he needs to remain a closer, hence why he wants to move to a city that needs one. The Nats don’t, and moving to Washington would mean less finished games for Papelbon, and thus no 2016 option.

Other teams with a legitimate need of a closer, like the Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays, are most likely in the race for Papelbon as well as for other available closers, namely Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman and San Diego Padres’ Craig Kimbrel.

We shall find out in the coming days who stays put or who has to pack up their stuff and grab a plane ticket. Stay tuned at BaseballEssential.com for more information.

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