Whether it was on the mound or when speaking to the media, former Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon never seemed to lack certainty in his career. In 2017, however, Papelbon reportedly has uncertainty about whether to continue his career or not.
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe says that the 36-year-old, who is ninth all-time in saves, is unsure about his future in the game:
Papelbon hasn’t decided whether he will resume his career after stepping away from baseball last season to tend to a family matter. The former Red Sox, Phillies, and Nationals closer has kept details of his family issue quite private.
Papelbon appeared in 37 games for the Washington Nationals in 2016, but lost the closer's job and was ultimately released in August, following a month of July in which he posted a 7.88 ERA. (His bad month prompted the Nationals to trade for Mark Melancon, who assumed the closer's role.)
At the time, Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post reported that Papelbon had requested his release after the team said that they were going to designate him for assignment, which seemingly would allow him to get a 10 day head start on picking his next team. However, even though there appeared to be interest from multiple teams, including the Boston Red Sox, Papelbon sat out the rest of the season.
Even after sitting out the rest of the season, there seemingly was the expectation that Papelbon would at least draw interest from team's willing to sign him to minor league deals in the offseason, if none were willing to offer a guaranteed major league job.
However, just after the MLB Winter Meetings, Cafardo spoke to Papelbon's agent, Seth Levinson, who said that Papelbon was focused on dealing with a family matter. The statement was vague, so it became unclear if the matter pertained to him specifically, or someone in his immediate family.
This report from Cafardo is the first thing we've heard in months regarding Papelbon. It's also vague enough that it leaves you to wonder whether the family issue is entirely cleared up and he's just not sure if he wants to pitch, or if he's still dealing with the matter.
If Papelbon were to decide to come back to the game, there would probably be interest in him. Unfortunately for him, that interest would almost certainly be on a minor league deal, and even if he made it to the majors, it feels unlikely that he would be a closer for a contending team at this point in his career.