Phillies Trade Rumors: Philadelphia Should Seek Suitors for Jonathan Papelbon

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Phillies Trade Rumors: Philadelphia Should Seek Suitors for Jonathan Papelbon
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With Major League Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Phillies need to see if anyone will take Jonathan Papelbon off their hands.

Philadelphia entered Wednesday seven games behind Atlanta for the top spot in the NL East. The next couple of games will determine if the Phillies should deal some of their veteran talent or if there’s still a chance at making a run toward one of the two wild-card spots in the National League.

Jayson Stark of ESPN writes that if the Phillies have a bad week leading up to the deadline, they could sell. He notes that if the organization decides to take calls on Papelbon, it’s going to be tough to trade him because of how big his contract is. Here’s what an AL executive told Stark:

He’s just not that valuable with that contract. If the Phillies want premium players back, they’d have to take half the contract [which has two years, worth $26 million, remaining, plus a vesting $13 million option]. I don’t see any team giving up an A-list prospect and taking that entire contract. You’d be taking the worst two or three years of a bad deal and giving them a premium prospect. That just doesn’t make sense.

Back in late June, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the Phillies would be seeking a lot in return if they were going to be trading Papelbon. At this point in the season, it doesn’t seem like the closer is worth a high asking price. He hasn’t been very good, and there are some concerns about his future.

Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Through 39 appearances this season, the right-hander is 20-of-25 in save opportunities and has allowed 10 earned runs in 39.2 innings of work. He’s also struck out 35 batters and has walked just six. But his lack of strikeouts in 2013 is one reason teams may not want to pay much for him.

Jonathan Papelbon's Strikeout Rates (Last Three Years)
Year Team K/9
2011 Boston Red Sox 12.17
2012 Philadelphia Phillies 11.83
2013 Philadelphia Phillies 7.94

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

The other problem with giving up a top prospect for Papelbon is that he hasn’t been throwing the ball nearly as hard as he used to. In 2013, the average velocity on the 32-year-old’s fastball is only 92.3 miles per hour. Here’s a look at how that matches up in comparison to previous years.

Jonathan Papelbon's Fastball Velocity
Year Team Velocity (MPH)
2007 Boston Red Sox 94.5
2008 Boston Red Sox 94.9
2009 Boston Red Sox 94.5
2010 Boston Red Sox 94.8
2011 Boston Red Sox 94.8
2012 Philadelphia Phillies 93.8
2013 Philadelphia Phillies 92.3

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

Papelbon may not been as effective as he once was, but there’s no doubting teams are seeking big-time relievers at the deadline. Several clubs are without reliable closers, and while the Phillies closer may not be the most attractive guy on the market, he still has some value.

Will the Phillies trade Papelbon?

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If the Phillies are interested in shipping Papelbon off to another franchise, they’re likely going to have to eat a bunch of his contract. But here’s the trade-off: If Philadelphia eats some money, the other team may be willing to give up a better prospect, as they will no longer have to pay the reliever as much.

If the potential trade partner is fine with trading for Papelbon without Philadelphia paying the bulk of his remaining contract, the Phillies probably aren’t going to get much in return. But the problem right now is that it isn’t clear general manager Ruben Amaro is even interested in getting rid of his closer.

Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reports it’s unlikely the team sells:

Amaro should at least be calling other teams to see what they’d be willing to pay for Papelbon. The GM should be looking to get the closer off the team’s books so it can move forward. You never know what a team is going to think he’s worth or might give up in exchange for him.

 

All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and are current through July 23. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus, and all contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts.

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