Could Jonathan Papelbon's release lead to Red Sox reunion?

·Yahoo Sports Contributor
Jonathan Papelbon must find a new home after being released by the Nationals. (AP)
Jonathan Papelbon must find a new home after being released by the Nationals. (AP)

Jonathan Papelbon is officially a free agent.

On Saturday, the 35-year-old former closer was granted his release by the Washington Nationals, leaving him free to sign with any team he chooses down the stretch.

We’ve already discussed Papelbon’s turbulent time in Washington. There’s really nothing more to say about a relationship that seemed doomed from the start, yet somehow found a way to finish below expectations. The only surprise there is that Papelbon lasted as long as he did in Washington.

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Instead, it’s time to analyze Papelbon’s future and which teams might covet a seemingly declining reliever who lost his closer’s job while posting a 4.37 ERA.

Given his experience, which includes 18 appearances and seven saves in the postseason, teams will be interested. That’s because experienced relievers, while plentiful, are a hit-and-miss breed. The more relievers teams can stockpile, the better chance they’ll find a reliable option to use in key situations. A guy like Papelbon should be in especially high demand given his track record, which could lead to an interesting decision for him.

Of course, one such team that stands out in that equation would be the Boston Red Sox. They know better than anyone how valuable Papelbon can be when he’s on his game. He spent the first seven seasons of his career in Boston, accumulating 219 of his 368 career saves. He also made all 18 of his postseason appearances there, including closing out their 2007 World Series championship.

We’ve already learned from one writer that Papelbon would be open to that reunion.

That leads to the question of whether or not Boston would actually be interested.

Remember, Boston has new leadership that’s been put in place since Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2012 season. It’s not a given that Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski would sign off on bringing him back. However, with Craig Kimbrel still shaky coming off knee surgery and Koji Uehera on the disabled list with a pectoral injury, they could use an arm.

If nothing else, Boston is a prime fit. Then again, there are probably a dozen other contending teams looking for a reliever who can bridge gaps in the bullpen. In the end, it might be a matter of comfort to Papelbon, and we imagine that moves Boston to the top of his list.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!