This is the second year two Wild Card teams make the MLB playoffs. Will it change the way teams conduct their business heading toward the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline? As of Tuesday afternoon, only six teams were out of either their division or Wild Card by more than double-digits. Could it mean less potential trades? Over the next couple weeks, we’ll look at some players who could be on the move to a contender.
Candidate: Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies closer
Team Position: 36-41, eight games out in NL East, nine out in Wild Card.
Why Phillies would trade him: Papelbon is owed a guaranteed $26 million for the 2014 and 2015 seasons and has a $13 million option for 2016. Does an aging team trying to rebuild need that much money tied up in a 32-year-old closer? Philadelphia’s window to win a World Series as its roster currently constructed seems to have slammed shut as they’ve been passed by the Braves and Nationals in their division.
Who Would Want Him?: The Tigers, Red Sox or any other contender with ninth-inning issues.
Pros: Papelbon is a proven closer, saving 30 or more games in seven straight seasons. This year he’s 14-for-18 in save opportunities with a 2.12 ERA along with 26 strikeouts in 29+ innings. Papelbon also has postseason success, registering the final outs of the 2007 World Series.
Cons: Money. Few teams, even in “win-now” mode, want to invest upwards of $40 million in a closer, even with Papelbon’s track record over his career. Also worrying: he’s blown four of his last five save opportunities following Monday’s loss in San Diego. While it’s not exactly a baseball issue, Papelbon does have one of those faces that’s very easy to hate, unless he’s pitching on your team.
Verdict: Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would be wise to listen to any and all offers for Papelbon. Philadelphia needs to get younger in many positions and offloading Papelbon for prospects, as well as clearing salary, would be a win-win. Based on his track record, Amaro plans to hold up teams interested in Papelbon for a king’s ransom. There’s nothing smarter than having a luxury hood ornament on your car when both back tires are flat, leaving the Phillies to spin their wheels. Teams, even ones desperate like the Tigers for a ninth-inning option, will likely balk at handing over multiple blue chip prospects thanks to Papelbon’s enormous contract. Papelbon won’t be on the move unless Amaro softens his stance.
[Photo by Getty]