There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether or not the Red Sox should bring back former closer Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon was released by the Washington Nationals and is now looking to join a playoff contender. Papelbon has been in touch with Manager John Farrell and has been receiving positive reviews from former teammates David Ortiz and Clay Buchholz. It seems pretty apparent that the Red Sox players want him back. The real question is whether or not it would be a good idea for Dave Dombrowski to bring him back.
Here’s the best case scenario: Papelbon signs with the Sox and steps up his game to give the Red Sox a reliable late inning option to take the pressure off of Junichi Tazawa. Papelbon is a fiery player who is going to hold his teammates accountable and make sure they’re giving it their all. (Just ask Bryce Harper.) This could provide an additional spark for a Red Sox team who is warming up down the stretch. Papelbon’s return could also give the Red Sox fan base yet another reason to be excited about this team. Watching him run in from the bullpen along to ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’ would be like listening to a song that you used to love for the first time in 5 years. He’s obviously not going to come in and blow hitters away with 95 mph anymore, but he is capable of coming in and getting guys out. That’s something that not many of the pitchers in the Red Sox bullpen can be trusted to do. This could be a successful reunion that we talk about for years to come.
Here’s the worst case scenario: Papelbon comes to Boston and sucks. The last thing we need is a third reliever, Junichi Tazawa and Fernando Abad being the first two, that is not going to pitch well. Papelbon may also not take any role aside from closing seriously, and this could just be a huge disaster that should’ve been avoided by not signing him in the first place. In this case all you can do is shake your head and release him.
As long as the Sox can avoid pitching Papelbon on back to back days, he should be able to give you some solid innings. Obviously you’re not going to want to throw him directly into high leverage situations, but if he can prove he is worthy this could be a huge boost to the team. It is anything but a slam dunk that Papelbon is successful. However, he can’t be any worse than Fernando Abad so I’ll take that upgrade. If he does well, good for him. If he sucks, release him. Signing Jonathan Papelbon would be a low risk high reward situation. He may not be a great person, but if he can throw a baseball better than Fernando Abad I don’t care. I hope Dave Dombrowski feels that same way.