Joe Maddon says Cubs haven’t discussed Jonathan Papelbon
Jonathan Papelbon is expected to choose his new team among a reported several interested parties as soon as Wednesday. According to Joe Maddon, the Chicago Cubs won’t be among the potential suitors.
The Cubs experienced some bullpen breakdowns over the weekend, but Maddon says he hasn’t been contacted about bringing in Papelbon, who was recently released by the Washington Nationals.
“There really isn’t,” Maddon said of discussions involving Papelbon, via the Chicago Tribune. “The guys have not discussed him with me. I’ve not heard a whole lot of scuttlebutt about the clubhouse yet, either. I like our group right now. I’m not saying it can’t happen. Don’t get me wrong. But for right now, there is nothing happening.”
Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester, a onetime teammate of Papelbon, went to bat for the reliever earlier this week, but it doesn’t look like that convinced the team to take a flier on the once-dominating closer.
The fact that Papelbon has struggled mightily in 2016 hasn’t helped matters either. He was 2-4 with 4.37 ERA in 37 appearances before the Nationals cut him loose.
As WEEI.com also notes, “a drop in fastball velocity (90.9 mph this year) and strikeout rate (8.0), as well as an uptick in ERA (4.37) and walk rate (3.6)” is a source of concern for any team interested in bringing in Papelbon, as is his potential to be a clubhouse distraction.
All that aside, Maddon professed faith in his bullpen despite its recent struggles, highlighted by back-to-back late-inning losses to the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We’ve gone back and forth with different guys this year,” he said. “As long as these guys are well, I have a lot of faith in the group in there right now.”
Papelbon may in fact be able to come in and help a contender, but it cannot be understated that he represents a risk, arguably on several fronts. Someone as savvy as Maddon probably recognizes that potential and possibly let Cubs brass in on his opinion.