CINCINNATI - Imagine Jonathan Papelbon pumping his fist and giving Jon Lester a bear hug after closing out a victory at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs probably aren't going to make a big splash before the July 31 trade deadline, or at least won't make bullpen help the priority, but it's still fun to think about "Cinco Ocho" in Wrigleyville.
The Philadelphia Phillies have the worst record in baseball and Papelbon can't wait to get off that team and back onto a contender. After all, that's what he thought he signed up for in Philly after leaving the Boston Red Sox.
Papelbon will be 35 in November and is in the last guaranteed season of a four-year, $50 million free agent contract (which has a vesting option for 2016) he signed after the 2011 season. The Phillies have not finished over .500 since he signed that deal, losing 321 games across the last four seasons.
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Papelbon used this week's All-Star stage to rip the Phillies during his media-day appearance.
"That's not what I signed up for," Papelbon said. "I signed up for a team that won 102 games and was expecting certain things. Now, it didn't happen and I've tried to ride that ship as much as I can. I've tried to keep my mouth shut as much as I can.
"But it's time to you-know-what or get off the pot. I feel like three years is plenty of time to ride it out, so to speak. ... For me, I'm just simply trying to be on a winning ballclub and win as many rings as I can before it's all said and done and I'm coaching Little League.
"I feel like I've given this organization as many opportunities as they can to put a winning ballclub out there and as many chances to keep me in this organization and it just hasn't happened. We're where we're at today and that's just it."
Papelbon said he's optimistic the Phillies will "do the right thing" and trade him. He admitted it's hard to stay focused in a losing environment. You wouldn't know it by looking at his numbers (1.60 ERA, 14 saves, 9.4 K/9).
"I'm not watching what the Cubs closer's doing, what the Toronto closer's doing," Papelbon said. "Whether I go to Toronto, whether I go to Chicago, whether I stay in Philly, whether I go anywhere, the only consistent thing that's going to happen is every night I'm going to prepare to go out and compete.
"I'm gonna do that regardless of where I'm at. Even though, if it's still in Philly, I'm not gonna be happy."
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The six-time All-Star has 339 saves on his resume to go along with a career 2.33 ERA. He closed out the 2007 World Series, getting the final outs for Lester and Theo Epstein's Red Sox.
It would be hard to see the Cubs giving up that much or eating the rest of the money Papelbon is owed. It might be a risk to add Papelbon's big, outspoken personality to the clubhouse and a bullpen where manager Joe Maddon enjoys having the freedom to mix-and-match.
The Cubs bullpen has stabilized over the last couple months after a rough start to the season. Jason Motte is having success closing out games right now and Maddon still has Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop as options. And don't forget about Rafael Soriano, who is working his way back to the big leagues.
Still, Lester said he would welcome Papelbon to Chicago with open arms and it doesn't seem to take much to sell Papelbon on the idea of packing up and moving to the North Side to reunite with his old Boston teammate.
"Jonny is one of the best lefties in the game," Papelbon said. "Great friend of mine. Came up through the minor leagues with him. Learned how to play baseball with him. We both kinda went through that together.
"For me to be able to get back on the field with him and compete with him would be a great deal and a great opportunity. But I think the biggest thing is, here's what a lot of people don't understand: If this decision was solely on my shoulders, I would've been gone a long time ago. But I only have so much. I can only do so much.
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"If another team comes to the Phillies and they have an offer and the Phillies don't like it or don't want to accept it, I can't do anything about that.
"I've only got so much power. This is not really on me a whole lot. I wish it was. But it's just not."