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Chicago Cubs Rumors: Jonathan Papelbon Endorsed By Jon Lester As Interest In Reliever Grows [VIDEO]

Mike Smollins
By Mike Smollins @MikeSmollins
on Aug 15, 2016 02:28 PM EDT
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Jonathan Papelbon
Former Nationals reliever Jonathan Papelbon. (Photo : Getty Images)

If the Cubs are set to go after Jonathan Papelbon, his former teammate Jon Lester certainly wouldn't disagree with the move.

Papelbon was granted his release by the Nationals on Saturday and is now free to sign with any other team in the majors. The Cubs have had a rough bullpen situation throughout this season and have been plagued by injuries as Hector Rondon is dealing with a sore triceps and Pedro Strop has a torn meniscus.

Chicago acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees to serve as their closer and he has a 1.04 ERA and four saves ever since the trade. Still, with a potential World Series run in their sights, the Cubs may look into signing Papelbon, who Lester heaped praise on.

Lester acknowledged that Papelbon has had his issues -- which includes a physical altercation with Bryce Harper in the Nationals dugout last season -- but he also complimented him for how he approaches the game.

"He is crazy," Lester said Sunday, according to ESPN. "But he's no crazier than the rest of us. He just gets a bad rap for what happened in the dugout. Knowing Papelbon, I've always had good things to say about him as a teammate, how he respects the game, and how he goes about his business."

The Cubs are reportedly interested in acquiring Papelbon to round out their bullpen. It's been a rough time for the right-hander as he went 2-4 with a 4.37 ERA for Washington prior to his release and owned a grisly 11.37 ERA after the All-Star break.

Lester, who played with Papelbon from 2006-11 with the Red Sox, downplayed the incident between his former teammate and Harper last season.

"People are quick to jump to the conclusions based on one event," Lester said. "I think he's a great teammate. Like I said, I don't think he's any crazier that the rest of us. I think he still has a lot to give.

"I don't have anything but good things to say about him as a clubhouse presence, a clubhouse personality, a closer, a pitcher, a teammate - all the above. I respect the way he goes about things. One thing you always know is he'll always take the ball, and he'll always have your back. As a teammate, that's all you can ask for."

Lester believes much like new imports Chapman and Mike Montgomery that Papelbon would "be very welcomed" in the Chicago clubhouse.

Though he's struggled on the diamond this season, Papelbon, 35, does have 368 career saves and a 2.44 ERA over a 12-year career and could prove to be a solid set-up man for Chapman.

The Cubs enter Monday with an MLB-best 73-43 record and own a 12-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central.

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