Papelbon has reservations about Wagner
Red Sox closer doesn't want to disrupt club's current bullpen
BOSTON -- While the Red Sox still have until 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday to work out a trade with the Mets for six-time All-Star closer Billy Wagner, their current closer -- a four-time All-Star in his own right -- expressed at least some reservations about how such an impact move would affect a bullpen that has thrived this season.
"I think the biggest thing which you look at when you're trying to acquire somebody is the fact that when you acquire somebody, you have to get rid of somebody," Jonathan Papelbon said. "Somebody has to go. What I said yesterday [to WEEI.com] is that I like the way our bullpen sets up right now. So that's the tough situation that you put your bullpen in, is that when you acquire somebody, somebody has to leave."
Well, not necessarily.
Rosters are expanded on Sept. 1, so the Red Sox could probably fit Wagner into the mix while still keeping Papelbon's loaded setup crew of Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen, Daniel Bard and Takashi Saito intact.
The bigger question is how roles would be impacted by adding a pitcher of Wagner's caliber.
"I think that we have a good dynamic down there in the bullpen and I think that we have guys that know how to work well together," said Papelbon. "Is Billy Wagner a great pitcher and would he bring some more depth to our bullpen and make our bullpen better? There's no question about it. But you have to also think about what we have now and what we've been able to accomplish at this point of the season and how good we've been."
The reason Papelbon had a swarm of reporters at his locker before Sunday's game was because of some things he said to WEEI.com a day earlier.
"Is he ready to pitch or is he not? You know what I mean?" Papelbon said to WEEI.com. "I think our bullpen is good where we're at right now. Don't get me wrong. But I guess you could always make it better. It's kind of like the [Eric] Gagne thing, I guess."
On July 31, 2007, the Sox acquired Gagne from the Rangers. However, the right-hander didn't adapt to being a setup man, having a horrific finish. The Red Sox still won the World Series behind Papelbon, Okajima, Delcarmen and others.
"Gagne was great when we got him. Gagne was one of the best teammates I've had, point blank," Papelbon said. "He definitely is up there as one of the best teammates I've had, and it was a great acquisition to get him, there was no question about it. It's a tough decision, because do you disrupt what we have now or do you make it better? It's a tough decision, and I'm glad I don't have to make it."
Papelbon also expressed faith in general manager Theo Epstein's decision-making skills.
"That's totally what his job is to do and that's what he's great at," Papelbon said. "That's what Theo is great at, is making teams better. Ultimately, the decision is going to be up to him, not me."
Wagner, meanwhile, has made one appearance since his return from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, throwing a scoreless inning on Thursday. The Red Sox were awarded a waiver claim on Wagner the next day. New York can either work out a deal with Boston, allow Wagner to be claimed by the Red Sox or pull him back and keep him.
"I think, watching him in the past, Billy is a professional," said Papelbon. "He knows what it's going to take to pitch, especially in this league, and he knows how to compete. I've seen him at All-Star Games, I've seen him compete, I've seen what he's done throughout his career. There's no question at all that he would definitely make our bullpen better, but it's just not that easy. That's basically what I'm trying to say."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.