We’ve heard before both that the Red Sox have expressed real interest in bringing back former closer Jonathan Papelbon and that a signing no longer seems very likely to come to fruition. Today’s comments from Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, via WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, further cast doubt on the possibility of a reunion.
According to Dombrowski, Papelbon’s failure to sign with the Red Sox or another organization are related to “his own personal reasons.” The veteran executive says that the word the team has received is that Papelbon simply is “not ready to make a decision” at this time.
While that’s certainly well within the veteran reliever’s rights, Dombrowski adds that it impacts the team’s own interest. Papelbon hasn’t appeared on a major league mound for over three weeks, and it isn’t even known just what he has been doing while working out on his own.
“So you’re in a position where you just can’t thrust him out there,” said Dombrowski. “I don’t know what he’s been doing as far as throwing is concerned. I would doubt that he’s been throwing a lot. So you would have to go back out there and build up his arm strength and be in a position to face some hitters. It’s not just inserting him like it would be if you signed him right off the bat.”
It is particularly notable, too, that Papelbon would need to sign before the end of August in order to be eligible to pitch in the post-season. Dombrowski notes that he and his representatives are surely aware of that fact, but are still electing to stand pat for the time being. “It has nothing to do with a club interest,” he said. “It’s just more, for whatever reason, his own decisions are like that.”
All told, it seems increasingly likely that the 35-year-old will be left to re-assess whether he wishes to keep pitching over the offseason. He has experienced his worst season at the major league level thus far in 2016, putting up a 4.37 ERA on the year, representing only the second time he has allowed more than three earned per nine over a single season. While Papelbon was able to punch out eight batters per nine, an improvement on his late-season run with the Nats in 2015, he also posted 3.6 BB/9 — his highest tally since his very first MLB campaign — and ran up a career-low 90.9 mph average four-seamer.