Jonathan Papelbon Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Phillies Closer
Jonathan Papelbon is enjoying another productive season out of the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. As one of the league's best closers over the past eight seasons, he's the type of pitcher that every manager wants to stabilize the game in late-inning situations.
Given his track record and the Phillies' unstable playoff hopes due to a lackluster first half, it's not shocking to see his name pop up in trade talk. Reliable bullpen arms, especially those with closing experience, are a valued commodity.
Papelbon falls into that category. He's tallied 20 saves this season while posting a 2.21 ERA and a terrific 0.87 WHIP. His decreased strikeout rate is a concern, but it's at least partially offset by the fact he's done well to limit walks, with six in 36.2 innings.
Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. hasn't lent any credence to the talk surrounding Papelbon, but Jayson Stark of ESPN reported that executives around the league believe the club is actively shopping him.
"They're talking to Boston and Detroit [about Papelbon] right now," an exec of one team said. "They may not say they are, but I know they are."
Said another: "Don't be surprised if you see Papelbon end up in Detroit. If the Tigers have a chance to get the closer they need, they won't let [a big asking price] stand in the way. So if you're Ruben, how can you not do that if the Tigers step up the way I think they're about to step up?"
The comments from rival executives speak to one of the most important things to understand about the trade deadline. What teams are saying publicly and what's going on behind the scenes are often two completely different things.
General managers must keep their plans behind closed doors or risk losing key bargaining power in negotiations. If other teams knew the Phillies were trying to move Papelbon, it would be hard to ask for top dollar on the market.
This leads to a report from Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, who states that rival scouts and executives believe that Papelbon will be traded or heavily shopped around the league, at the very least. The return value could be the tipping point.
As for Papelbon, the Phils could hold onto him for next year, but rivals see too much of a need for bullpen help among contenders like Detroit and Boston. "Someone is going to offer them a lot for Pap," said one rival exec.
That jives with what Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is hearing. While teams like the Boston Red Sox, Papelbon's former club, and the Detroit Tigers are lurking, the Phillies are going to ask for a king's ransom in return.
As for Lee and Papelbon, multiple teams will come calling no matter what the Phillies' message is. The Red Sox and Tigers, in particular, are expected to be in the market for a closer. Lee holds the right to reject trades to 21 of 29 teams, but he made clear in this space his main goal is to pitch for a winner, suggesting he's open to trade possibilities.
Many teams will be clamoring for Lee and Papelbon, who carry the potential to be the best starter and closer on the market. But it is quite clear at this point: The price tag on either would be astronomical.
In the end, all the reports point toward the same general conclusion. Philadelphia isn't going to avoid listening to offers for Papelbon or any of their other veteran assets, but the other teams better be willing to pay up for talks to progress.
Amaro is playing it smart by keeping his plans out of the public realm. Whether a realistic offer comes along before the deadline is the biggest question. If not, the Phillies GM seems content keeping his current squad in place.
Everything will play itself out over the next couple of weeks.
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