Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo defending Jonathan Papelbon and the possibility he will be on the team's Opening Day roster is nothing new, he has time and time again said this winter that the team does not plan to trade the closer just to get rid of him. He will not rule out a trade, but he is not committing to the urgency of needing to trade him, either.
On Saturday, however, Rizzo may have given his most detailed defense of Papelbon to date. On a conference call to talk about the trade for center fielder Ben Revere, Rizzo had this to say about Papelbon:
"We make baseball trades. If there’s a baseball trade out there, then we’ll make it. We see Papelbon as being one of our late-inning relievers. He’s been very effective at it his entire career, including last year except for the last portion of the season. This guy is a quality reliever, quality closer. He’s been in the biggest stage that you can be in. He pitched the last out of a World Series game and has a World Series ring. He knows how to win. He brings a swagger to the bullpen and he’s a guy that we’re going to rely on to pitch late and leverage innings."
Rizzo was discussing a trade on the call that involved Drew Storen, whom was dealt one day after he shared similar sentiments about him, that the team would make a trade only if it made baseball sense, that they were not actively shopping Storen. Then, he got traded just 24 hours later.
Rizzo's defense of Papelbon should be considered with that in mind, that he has every reason in the world to not come out and bash the guy, as it would diminish his trade value. But it is still interesting to hear the Nats' front office boss talk so positively of a player who the team suspended for the final week of the season for a fight involving Bryce Harper, and one who has filed a grievance against the team this offseason over lost salary due to his suspension.