Washington Nationals' closer Jonathan Papelbon was not at last weekend's Nats WinterFest. According to what Nats' General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters, the embattled reliever had other commitments.
"He had plans to be out of the country well before the dates of this came out, so he's out of the country and unavailable," Rizzo said.
Rumors this winter have the Nationals trying to deal the 35-year-old, 11-year veteran in spite of what Rizzo has said about his willingness to keep both Papelbon and Drew Storen (who reportedly requested a trade after Papelbon was acquired) in the Nats' bullpen in 2016.
"They're both highly-talented, extremely competitive, very good relief pitchers and if that's your eighth inning and ninth inning guys, we feel comfortable with that," Rizzo told reporters during the Winter Meetings.
But will either of the relievers be in the Nationals' 'pen on Opening Day?
"Drew Storen's name has been mentioned around the league and we've fielded several calls for Drew and several of our other bullpen pieces too," Rizzo told reporters in Nashville.
Rizzo was asked at the Winter Meetings if anyone was asking about Papelbon?
"I think at the stage of his career with the contract he has there has been interest in him," Rizzo said.
How hard will it be to find a trade partner for Papelbon?
The reliever agreed to a deal with the Nationals in spite of the fact that Washington was on his no-trade list before the deal, is the right-hander going to do anything to facilitate a deal again?
The Nationals guaranteed Papelbon's option for 2016 (at $11M, down from $13) immediately as part of the deal, though it would have vested anyway, and guaranteed that he would be the closer in D.C.
What would it take to get Papelbon to agree to a deal to a team that's on his no-trade list this time around?
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick tweeted the reliever's updated no-trade list this afternoon. Papelbon can block a trade to 17 major league teams:
ARI, ATL, BAL, CIN, COL, CWS, HOU, KC, LAD, MIA, MIL, MIN, OAK, PIT, SEA, TEX, TOR
Which leaves 12 teams to which he can be dealt without his approval:
BOS, ChiC, CLEV, DET, LAA, NYM, NYY, PHI, TB, STL, SD, SF
The changes, Crasnick wrote, included one notable team to which he can now be dealt:
"The Yankees have gone from a blocked team to a club where he can be dealt without his consent. (Whether the Yankees have any interest is an entirely different matter)."
He can also be traded back to the Phillies... but c'mon.
"The no-trade list simply adds to the numerous other challenges Washington GM Mike Rizzo has in trying to move Papelbon this offseason," Crasnick notes.
No one ever said it was going to be easy...