Dusty Baker told reporters the Washington Nationals were calling Reynaldo Lopez up to start tonight’s game against the Braves when he met with the press before the series opener with Atlanta on Friday night.
He didn’t, however, announce a corresponding move to clear a spot on the roster at the time.
Asked after the Nationals’ 8-5 loss if the Nats decided on a move to make room for Lopez, he wasn’t offering any information.
“No,” Baker said. “And if I did I’m not going to tell you, so let’s talk about the game.”
This morning, however, reports emerged that the Nats were on the verge of parting ways with veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was left without a role when the Nationals acquired Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the days leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline.
#Nationals have had discussions about releasing Jonathan Papelbon, multiple sources confirm.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) August 13, 2016
Papelbon has requested his release and #Nationals are trying to figure out best way to do it, industry source says. Could be soon.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) August 13, 2016
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick wasn’t the only one who heard the rumblings.
Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes and MLB.com’s Bill Ladson both talked to sources who said the same:
Nationals release of Jonathan Papelbon "in the works," according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) August 13, 2016
Papelbon asked to be released instead, since DFA takes 10 days to finalize. Nats agreed to take that route instead. Nothing official yet.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) August 13, 2016
Source: #Nats close to releasing #Papelbon https://t.co/7OMQhVtEac #Nationals #MLB— William Ladson (@washingnats) August 13, 2016
Acquired before the 2015 deadline in a deal that sent prospect Nick Pivetta (RHP) to the Philadelphia Phillies, Papelbon saved 26 games in 31 opportunities, putting up a 3.84 ERA and a 4.16 FIP in 58 ⅔ IP in his time with the Nationals.
He did, however, cause some controversy in his time in the nation’s capital, hitting Baltimore Orioles’ infielder Manny Machado up high in a game late last season and getting into a dugout altercation with Bryce Harper that made headlines when he throttled the 22-going-on-23-year-old slugger after arguing with him about Harper running or not running out of a pop fly.
Papelbon served a seven-game suspension (a 4-game suspension from Nationals and a 3-game suspension from MLB) for the incidents, which effectively ended his 2015 campaign, but the Nationals brought him back this season after they reportedly entertained offers for the veteran reliever this winter, but failed to find any deals.
Through 37 appearances this season, Papelbon had a 4.37 ERA (up from 2.04 and 2.13 in the previous two seasons) and a 3.67 FIP (up from 2.53 in 2014, and close to his 3.70 FIP in 2015), but he wasn’t generating the swings and misses he had in previous seasons, with a 10.4% swinging strike percentage (which was down from 12.3% and 12.4% in ‘14 and ‘15), and his fastball velocity dipped (90.9 mph average, down from 93.6 in his career and 91.4 mph in 2015).
The Nationals made his release official this afternoon:
The Nats have recalled RHP Reynaldo Lopez from Triple-A Syracuse and released RHP Jonathan Papelbon.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 13, 2016