The news (via The Sporting News) was initially that Boston Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan was deciding on whether to have season-ending surgery, but now, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports that Hanrahan is done for the season.
The Red Sox have suddenly gone from having one of the deepest bullpens in baseball to having a big question mark there.
It is not a situation that the Red Sox expected to find themselves in by mid-May, but it is now reality. There is a very easy solution out there, one that would provide Boston with a great closer who already has a ton of experience in the market.
The Red Sox should trade for Jonathan Papelbon in light of the injuries to Hanrahan and co-closer Andrew Bailey.
The reason that the Red Sox should be able to acquire Papelbon is because the Philadelphia Phillies find themselves at 18-21, good for third-place in the NL East. In light of the injury to ace Roy Halladay, the Phillies will soon find themselves in a position to sell at the MLB trade deadline in an attempt to get younger and cheaper.
The Phillies have one of the lowest-ranked farm systems in baseball, so there would definitely be interest in shedding Papelbon's $33 million in potentially owed salary and receiving a couple of decent prospects. In a season where Papelbon's strikeout rate and fastball velocity are down, the Phillies might consider selling high.
This is where the Red Sox could strike.
Papelbon would solve both the short-term and long-term needs for Boston. If the Red Sox traded for Papelbon in June or July, the financial commitment would be roughly $33 million before factoring in a vesting option for 2016 based on games finished. Long term, the Red Sox have struggled to find a closer since Papelbon left.
Boston has gotten off to a great start this season at 22-16 and in third place in the AL East. As well as the Red Sox have done so far, not everything has gone according to plan, however, meaning Boston can sustain its early success while hoping for improved performances from Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront and Stephen Drew.
In a season where there is no single great team in the American League, having a closer who can finish games could be the difference between making the postseason or coming up short.
The Red Sox already know that the 32-year-old Papelbon can handle the market and relishes the stage that comes with pitching at Fenway Park.
Papelbon would allow the Red Sox to use Bailey in a set-up role, moving Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa back into situational roles. By cutting down on everyone's appearances, it would make the bullpen a strength again. It would also allow the Red Sox to keep Papelbon fresh by having him only pitch the ninth inning.
Financially, the Red Sox can make this work. Hanrahan will be a free agent after this season with his $7 million coming off the books. The Red Sox could also look to move the oft-injured Bailey this winter as well. That's over $11 million coming off the books, enough to almost counter Papelbon's salary next season.
There's more than enough reasons for Papelbon to begin shipping up to Boston again.