The Nationals have had at least some discussions with the Phillies regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports report on Twitter. While Washington is hesitant to take on mid-season payroll, says Rosenthal, the sides could line up if the Phillies covered a big piece of his remaining deal.
While the match is jarring at first glance, and the two teams have rarely matched up on deals of any significance, we’ve seen other clubs eschew fears of dealing within the division in recent days. And with Papelbon’s market reportedly shrinking, it’s not surprising to see the Nationals choose an opportune time to enter the discussion.
Washington’s interest in the late-inning relief market can probably be categorized more as “want” than “need” — Drew Storen has, after all, been excellent — and it seems there could be some limitations on the methods available. But with the Mets announcing their intentions to push after the division title, and the Nationals struggling with a wide variety of injuries, every edge is important. The club’s pen work has actually been rather good, but another shutdown arm would be most welcome with Tyler Clippard long since dealt to Oakland.
From the perspective of the Phillies, while it may sting a bit to entertain the idea of moving Papelbon to the division’s current powerhouse, the reportedly wavering interest means that all options must be considered. Papelbon himself has been increasingly blunt about his displeasure with remaining in Philly, and it’s hard to imagine a smooth August and September if a deal does not get done.