Spring training begins in roughly two months, meaning that this is the halfway point in the offseason. The Yankees are still looking to add arms to the bullpen, and possibly the rotation, after filling the positions of second baseman and backup outfielder earlier in the season. Brian Cashman has made it clear time and time again that the team is not interested in spending money on a free agent, so any further improvements are likely to come via trade. It seems that the Nationals are trying to part ways with Jonathan Papelbon, and now they could force a trade to a number of teams, including the Yankees.
Papelbon can block a trade to following teams: ARI, ATL, BAL, CIN, COL, CWS, HOU, KC, LAD, MIA, MIL, MIN, OAK, PIT, SEA, TEX, TOR— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 18, 2015
Papelbon was traded to the Nationals just ahead of the trade deadline, and it does not seem that Washington is a good fit for him. First, Papelbon insisted that he would only accept a trade who would use him as their closer, so the Nationals removed Drew Storen from that role even though he was pitching well and already had 29 saves by the end of July. Then Papelbon choked Bryce Harper in the Nationals' dugout after the latter failed to run hard on a fly ball out when the Nationals were already out of playoff contention. Papelbon was suspended for his actions and that's how his season ended.
While the Yankees could use an arm in the bullpen, it's difficult to imagine Papelbon fitting in with the clubhouse chemistry. The incident with Harper was not his first behavioral issue. In 2014, he was suspended for seven games for making an obscene gesture towards fans. He also spoke very negatively about the Phillies while he was still part of their team, and while he was demanding to be traded. Yet Papelbon is a fine pitcher if you can overlook his personality. His strikeout numbers have dropped over the past few seasons, but the 35-year-old still recorded 56 strikeouts and posted a 2.13 ERA and 3.70 FIP through 63 and one-third innings last year. Since he has been so vocal in the past about wanting to remain in the role of closer, it probably wouldn't be worth the tantrums for any team to trade for him if they don't want to use him as closer. The only scenario where Papelbon would even fit on the team would be if the Yankees ended up trading away Andrew Miller. Such a trade would net a huge return, but seems unlikely to happen. Papelbon only has one more year left on his contract, since his 2016 option (worth $13 million) vested after he finished the season with more than 55 games completed. It would be a shame to part with any prospects in exchange for such a volatile pitcher. The Nationals might just be stuck with him.