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Insider

Phillies get value sending Papelbon to Nationals

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Will Papelbon be a good fit for Nationals?

Analyst Mark Mulder looks at Jonathan Papelbon's move to the Nationals and whether he's the needed piece to get Washington over the hump in October.

The Washington Nationals get a minor bullpen boost with the acquisition of Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Jonathan Papelbon -- who gets points for being a "proven closer" but is actually just a competent above-average reliever -- at the cost of a solid starting pitching prospect who's close to the majors but is also a guy without huge upside.

Papelbon has remade himself even as his fastball has lost almost 4 mph since his peak years in Boston. He's working up in the zone with the four-seamer and down with the splitter, and also incorporating a slider to the greatest extent of his career. The splitter has been less effective this year against lefties, although it's too small a sample to condemn him to right-handed specialist duty; it's just something to be wary of.