MIAMI (AP) — The Washington Nationals have a new closer, landing All-Star Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies.
That means their newly demoted closer isn’t happy.
And the NL East race is shaping up to be a whole lot of fun down the stretch.
On the night the Nationals got Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman back from long stints on the disabled list, they also landed Papelbon from the Phillies and wasted no time announcing that he will be taking over the closer duties from Drew Storen. It didn’t help Washington any Tuesday night, as the Nationals lost to the Miami Marlins 4-1.
Washington’s loss, combined with the New York Mets’ win over San Diego, cut the Nationals’ lead in the NL East to one game.
“All-Star closer, been in pressure situations his whole career, so we’re happy to have him,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said of Papelbon.
It’s not a unanimous opinion.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he talked to Storen about the trade and indicated that the closer who converted 29 of 31 chances for Washington this year was taking it well. Storen offered a different perspective postgame.
“All I’m going to say is that I’m aware of the move and I’ve talked to Mike about it and talked to my agent and we’ve had some ongoing discussions and until those have progressed I’m going to leave it at that and no comment for now,” Storen said. “As the situation goes, I’ll keep you guys posted.”
Jose Fernandez (4-0) allowed four hits and one run in six innings for Miami, improving his career record at Marlins Park to 15-0. Martin Prado had three hits while Dee Gordon — whose standup triple in the sixth helped Miami take the lead for good — and Christian Yelich each had two for the Marlins.
Jordan Zimmermann (8-6) gave up eight hits and three runs in six innings. The Nationals lost for the first time in his last seven starts.
Zimmerman had two hits, while Bryce Harper reached base for the 24th straight game and 43rd straight on the road for the Nationals. But plenty of attention was on the new arrangement in the Washington bullpen, and understandably so.
Papelbon is Philadelphia’s career saves leader with 123 and is 17 for 17 in save chances this season. Papelbon is also Boston’s saves leader with 219.
“I know he’s proven he’s good. Happy to have him on our team,” Zimmermann said. “With him and Drew in the back end of the bullpen it makes it easier on the starters, that’s for sure.”
Papelbon, 34, said he wouldn’t accept a trade unless he would remain a closer, and agreed to waive his no-trade clause after getting the assurances he needed from Washington. Storen will shift to primarily a setup role.
“Papelbon is our ninth-inning pitcher,” Rizzo said. “Drew will pitch the ninth inning at times when Papelbon is unavailable and be our setup guy in the eighth inning as we are constructed today. Paps hasn’t pitched too many three-days-in-a-row stints. We’re going to be careful with him and we feel that we’ve got two terrific, elite ninth-inning guys who can close out games in pressure situations.”
As part of the trade, Papelbon’s $13 million option for 2016 becomes a guaranteed $11 million salary. Some of that money will be deferred, Rizzo said, adding that the Nationals weren’t worried about bringing Papelbon into their clubhouse mix.
“All I care about is him getting here and pitching and helping us win games,” Williams said.
The Phillies will receive Double-A right-hander Nick Pivetta for Papelbon. The Nationals designated catcher Dan Butler for assignment.
The rebuilding Phillies are also trying hard to trade ace Cole Hamels, who threw his first career no-hitter last Saturday at the Cubs. The 2008 World Series MVP has three years remaining in a $144 million, six-year contract, a deal that includes a club option for 2019. Like Papelbon, Hamels has made it clear he’d like to go to a contender. The three-time All-Star has a limited no-trade clause so he might have to approve a deal.
“I know he wanted to be traded and I knew it was only a matter of time where it got to the point of when he felt like he was satisfied with where he wanted to go,” said Ken Giles, who is likely to take over as Philadelphia’s closer. “I wish him all the best of luck.”
The Phillies are a major league-worst 37-63. They signed Papelbon to a $50 million, four-year deal in November 2011.
The Nationals expect Papelbon in Miami on Wednesday.