Skip to content

Report: Papelbon files grievance against Nationals

Dec 6, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

NASHVILLE — The Nationals’ already unenviable dilemma with Jonathan Papelbon appears to have become even more complicated after a report Sunday night that the controversial closer has filed a grievance against the organization over his unpaid suspension at season’s end.

Citing multiple major league sources, Boston radio station website reported the former Red Sox reliever filed his grievance against the Nationals for failing to pay his salary during the 4-game suspension the club imposed on him during the season’s final week.

The Nationals said general manager Mike Rizzo is expected to comment on the reported grievance Monday during his daily meeting with reporters at the Winter Meetings. Most club officials were scheduled to arrive at the Opryland Resort late Sunday night.

Papelbon’s case is built upon the question of whether an MLB club is allowed to withhold pay from a player it unilaterally suspended. Players who serve league-imposed suspensions aren’t paid, but that process is spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement signed off by the players’ union.

Papelbon, according to the report, claims there is no precedent of a player having his salary withdrawn after a team-issued suspension. A hearing date has not yet been scheduled.

The 4-game suspension was handed down September 28, one day after Papelbon and teammate Bryce Harper got into a heated argument in the Nationals’ dugout that resulted in the fiery closer choking the eventual NL MVP. The club announced at the time the suspension was without pay, with Rizzo saying he informed Papelbon of the punishment during a phone conversation.

“He was upset with the suspension, and we discussed about the nature of the incident and how I felt that it was an unacceptable way to handle yourself as a Washington National,” Rizzo said that afternoon. “We parted amicably, and I left it with: We will see him shortly after the season.”

Papelbon has not spoken publicly since he was suspended.

One of the Nationals’ reasons for acquiring the veteran closer from the Phillies prior to the July 31 trade deadline was the fact he was already signed for next season. Papelbon, who held (and still holds) limited no-trade rights as part of his contract, agreed to reduce his 2016 salary from $13 million to $11 million.

The Phillies actually picked up $4.5 million of the $4,830,601 that Papelbon was owed after the trade, so the Nationals were only responsible for $330,601 of his salary in 2015. Four days’ worth of his full salary would amount to roughly $288,000.

Since season’s end, the Nationals have been trying to figure out how to proceed with Papelbon. Sources have said the club has been gauging trade interest from other teams, but given his situation and his salary, they face a tough task trying to find a willing partner. If they release him, the Nationals would be responsible for his entire 2016 salary.

Rizzo has said he would only deal Papelbon and/or disgruntled reliever Drew Storen (who lost his closer’s job to Papelbon after the trade) if it makes sense from a baseball standpoint.

  1. veejh - Dec 6, 2015 at 11:48 PM

    Wow. After this, there’s no way he plays for the Nationals next season. He’s lowered his stock rating even further. If we get anything more than deferring a small percentage of his salary to unload him, I’d be shocked.

    • mwgchess - Dec 6, 2015 at 11:56 PM

      I say we keep him but sit him on the bench the entire season :). Jerk deserves a timeout.

      • ArVAFan - Dec 7, 2015 at 9:04 AM

        If we do, he needs to stay in the bullpen. Well, then again, maybe not. As soon as there’s a bench-clearing incident, he’d end up running in, escalating it, and someone would actually get hurt.

        Can we put him on the DL for having no self-control?

    • mauimo22 - Dec 7, 2015 at 7:56 AM

      Yep, he is GONE now! This action clearly shows he has not learned. What a twerp!

      • mwgchess - Dec 7, 2015 at 6:27 PM

        Can we tie him to the bench? That would stop him from attacking our players.

  2. mwgchess - Dec 6, 2015 at 11:52 PM

    Papelbon is the most awful person ever. What a joke of a human being. He strangles a teammate, gets off with only a four-game suspension and then does this. I say give him the money and then tell him to screw off. I’m not one to boycott a team because of one player, but If the Nationals let this putz take the mound again than I am seriously considering it. I’ve always liked the Pirates maybe I’ll go over there.

  3. mwgchess - Dec 6, 2015 at 11:59 PM

    Is it too late for Harper to sue Papelbon? Would be much more founded than Papelbon’s “grievance”

  4. veejh - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:04 AM

    Possibly another blunder by the Nationals front office not DFA’ing his azz when they had the chance. He’s forced their hand now. They have to cut him. No team in their right mind would give up anything to take him on. We’ll pay his full salary next season and some team will pick him up for league minimum.

    • JayB - Dec 7, 2015 at 6:39 AM

      +100 Rizzo is a dope when he can not admit he was wrong and he does not learn from his mistakes….New GM is needed soon in my view….He is just not GM material…he makes too many errors on this kind of things….He is a hall of fame Asst. GM

    • bowdenball - Dec 7, 2015 at 10:30 AM

      This doesn’t make any sense. Even if you meant release rather than “designated for assignment” (which requires consent from veterans), the Nats gain nothing by releasing him before the start of the season next year. They don’t currently need the 40 man spot, they’re still on the hook for 100% of his salary, and releasing him wouldn’t affect his right to file a grievance. If there’s even a 5% chance that some team will take on just a tiny portion of his salary or give you some fringe prospect for him- which of course there is- there’s no reason to outright him.

  5. Doc - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:14 AM

    The money that Mark quotes as owing to Paplebon for the 4 days would appear to be based on what the Phillies are reportedly paying him as per the trade.

    Not sure the Nats can legally penalize Papelbon for what the Phillies are paying him. Contract law would seem to rule here, and Papelbon would seem to have a good case.

    Then again MLB does things their own way, with the Reserve Clause, and the legal precedence of contract law may have little bearing on the matter.

  6. Eugene in Oregon - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:29 AM

    A week or so ago I wrote that — while it wasn’t my preference — I expected Jonathan Papelbon to be the Nats’ opening day closer. Not anymore.

  7. NatsLady - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:59 AM

    I take it Harper is not filing a grievance for his one day suspension?

    • letswin3 - Dec 7, 2015 at 12:37 PM

      Can a player file a grievance against another player? If so, Harper should sharpen his pencil. Otherwise he should file a police report (although a little late) against Pap for assault. And finally, I may send a letter to Santa explaining exactly what kind of guy Pap was this year.

  8. JayB - Dec 7, 2015 at 6:41 AM

    Harper was paid I am sure…..Scott B would have been all over that as he should be…..Harper did a lot of favors for Nats in Aug and Sept…..MW is a great hitting coach…..Pap and I am good… way he was not paid…it was a day off for him and he agreed they could call it whatever helped them….

    • tcostant - Dec 7, 2015 at 10:19 AM

      Papelbon has a great case if Harper was paid.

      • natsfan1a - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:01 AM

        If memory serves, which it doesn’t always, in Harper’s case it was referred to as a planned off day as well as being a punishment for “his role.”

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 8, 2015 at 12:22 AM

        Harper wasn’t suspended, he was benched, officially, for not mounting a sufficiently teleworthy defense. Papelbon was suspended, without pay, for being a massive jackhole. It remains to be seen whether the Nats have the right to dock the dick.

  9. jfmii - Dec 7, 2015 at 6:51 AM

    Papelbon is an a$$, but probably will correctly win the appeal.

  10. water47 - Dec 7, 2015 at 7:05 AM

    Hmm… i want to rage or be pissed but I guess if my job suspended my without pay against the law the I would definitely want to be paid. Does he not seem to fit in DC. Yes, but because of his personality not because he used the proper channels to work out an issue.

  11. natsfan1a - Dec 7, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    Oh for cripe’s sake. Just get rid of him already.

  12. naterialguy - Dec 7, 2015 at 7:58 AM

    I am still a bit surprised that the Nats legal team could not find a way to hold papeldoosh in violation of the terms of his contract for his violent conduct both detrimental and dangerous to the team and individual.

  13. derwink - Dec 7, 2015 at 8:00 AM

    I was in favour of the Nats trying to get some value in return for Papelbon.

    Now, I doubt the value of that return is worth the distraction of keeping him around any longer. Plus, it can’t help them in recruiting of free agents to have this going on.

    They’re probably at the point where they should just DFA him.

    I wonder how Storen takes this. Is he at home smiling and looking forward to a new home?

  14. alexva6 - Dec 7, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    everyone looks for ways to get a little extra cash around Christmas, no good/worthless/pieces of dung included.

  15. Another_Sam - Dec 7, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    There’s no dilemma at all regarding what to do with this guy. IMHO.

    • veejh - Dec 7, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      Cement loafers sounds perfect.

  16. trfwans - Dec 7, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    There was another guy who filed a salary grievance against the Nats around this time last year. Guy who went on to have an MVP season for them with no hard feelings at all. Guy named Bryce Harper.

    • natsguy - Dec 7, 2015 at 8:47 AM

      Difference was that his was legitimate.

      • trfwans - Dec 7, 2015 at 8:56 AM

        Papelbon’s could be legitimate too, if it really does violate the CBA.

  17. edbrinkman - Dec 7, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    Color him gone. Nats got a free year of Uggla, courtesy of the Braves. Now they will eat Papelbon’s contract for a year. Result – Nats break even. Move on.

    • Dave - Dec 7, 2015 at 10:57 AM

      I like that analysis.

  18. natsguy - Dec 7, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    I hope thing get a little better for Rizzo at the Winter Meetings. Not much has gone right for them since July 31st.

    • Karl Kolchak - Dec 7, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      Given that during Rizzo’s first season as GM his first task was to clean up the bullpen disaster left for him by Jim Bowden, I don’t feel much sympathy for him. He made the decision to go into last season with a suspect bullpen, then made things worse with the Papelbon trade. So far, the bullpen remains a gaping black hole devoid of any hope, so if this helps get him off his rear end it’s a good thing.

      • letsallbaseball - Dec 7, 2015 at 10:36 AM

        In 2012 and 2013 the Nats had an excellent bullpen. Wasn’t so bad in 2014 either. It’s not like Rizzo has had no success at all. 2015 was a disaster though.

  19. acethehammer - Dec 7, 2015 at 9:13 AM

    Apologize for suspending him, give him his money back, and then have him arrested for assault.

    • ArVAFan - Dec 7, 2015 at 9:22 AM

      Works for me!

    • natsguy - Dec 7, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      You could do the arresting without the apology. Why compound the error for the Boston Strangler.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 8, 2015 at 12:26 AM

      Works for me.

  20. John Vockley - Dec 7, 2015 at 10:29 AM

    picking up Paps was Rizzo’s worst decision in a season of poor ones. how can it get any worse? by Paps being on next year’s roster.

    Rizzo better redeem himself this offseason, beginning at the winter meetings!

    totally disappointed

  21. Another_Sam - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    If fairness to Pap – I get that it’s not about the $ at all. It’s about the working agreement. I’ve no problem with his reps making this point, on behalf of all players. I support that.

    • Doc - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:13 AM

      Me too. Besides, $288K is a few bucks.

      • natsjackinfl - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:19 AM

        Totally agree with both of you.

  22. kirbs3256 - Dec 7, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    As much as we all hate him, he is right. Iv’e scrolled through the PBA and found that clubs can “Fine” players, and anything over $500 is subject to grievance. I saw absolutely nothing about the club being able to suspend a player without pay.

    But in baseball news, What did Cinci get for Chapman?

  23. richardp6 - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:33 PM

    Greedy bastard and new employers don’t look kindly on people who sue their old bosses.

  24. Jay Cee Bullock - Dec 7, 2015 at 1:46 PM

    It would be great to hear Rizzo rip Papelbon a new one but Mike is missing a certain male accessory/appendage.

    • therealjohnc - Dec 7, 2015 at 7:40 PM

      Ah, another internet tough guy. So difficult to find in this day and age.

      Rizzo has faced down the abuse and disdain of pretty much an entire industry without turning a hair … er … without sweating for a moment. He’s much tougher than most.

      Unless the accessory you’re talking about is the hair on the top of his head, of course – then you’re quite correct. Well done!

  25. shawndc04 - Dec 7, 2015 at 6:59 PM

    This comment tells you all you need to know:

    “My mistake was doing that in the dugout in front of a camera,” Papelbon said. “I’ve got two young kids. They know that’s not right, but it happens. I fully apologize for doing that but most of it’s handled in the tunnel. [Harper is] a competitor, too.”





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter