The Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, along with other MLB teams, are considering signing recently released relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Veteran right-handed reliever Jonathan Papelbon, released by the Washington Nationals on Saturday at his request, is getting interest from multiple teams, including the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.
The former closer expects to make a decision on his next team within 24 hours, a source told ESPN.
Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Tuesday he has reached out to Papelbon personally. Should the free agent sign with Boston, Farrell said he would not be the closer.
The Red Sox are seeking an eighth-inning setup man in the absence of Koji Uehara, who is sidelined indefinitely by a right pectoral strain.
"There's no question he's a different pitcher now than nine years ago," Farrell said of Papelbon. "There's been a lot of saves recorded in between, a lot of pitches thrown. He's evolved as more of a 'pitcher' rather than relying solely on velocity and a fastball that he would attack with.
"Coming back into Boston, if that were to happen, he's very well-aware of the environment, the expectation. So we'll see where that goes."
Papelbon, 35, broke into the majors with Boston in 2005, recording 219 saves and making four American League All-Star Games in seven seasons with the Red Sox.
The controversial Papelbon, a six-time All-Star closer, was acquired by the Nationals in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies on July 28, 2015. One week before the end of the 2015 season, Papelbon attempted to choke teammate and eventual National League MVP Bryce Harper during an altercation in the dugout when the two players got into an argument after Harper did not run out a pop fly. Papelbon was suspended seven games for his actions.
Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, Papelbon's former Red Sox teammate, endorses signing the veteran and said Papelbon got a "bad rap" for his dugout confrontation with Harper last season.
"He is crazy," Lester told ESPN.com with a smile. "But he's no crazier than the rest of us. He just gets a bad rap for what happened in the dugout. Knowing Papelbon, I've always had good things to say about him as a teammate, how he respects the game and how he goes about his business.
"People are quick to jump to the conclusions based on one event. I think he's a great teammate. Like I said, I don't think he's any crazier that the rest of us. I think he still has a lot to give."
Papelbon was 2-4 with a career-worst 4.37 ERA and 19 saves in 37 appearances with the Nationals this season. His struggles before the trade deadline led to the team's decision to acquire All-Star closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Nationals are responsible for the roughly $3 million that remains of Papelbon's $11 million salary for 2016. The 12-year veteran has a career record of 41-36 with a 2.44 ERA and 368 saves with the Red Sox, Phillies and Nationals. He ranks ninth in major league history in saves.