Toronto Blue Jays Should Target Jonathan Papelbon for Bullpen Help

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Toronto Blue Jays Should Target Jonathan Papelbon for Bullpen Help
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The Toronto Blue Jays bullpen needs help. Badly. It's as simple as that. Where the Jays were strong last year, they're among the worst in baseball in 2014.

Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star pointed out the need to address the bullpen in a column earlier this week. His only specific examples, however, were internal promotions and recoveries. That isn't the route to take for a team still in contention for a division title.

Instead, Toronto should target disgruntled Philadelphia Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Jon Heyman of cbssports.com recently wrote about Philadelphia's top bullpen arm seeking a move.

Not only would Papelbon add another legitimate shutdown arm to the back of the team's bullpen, but it's likely that he could be acquired fairly cheap.

Philadelphia has next to no leverage thanks to Papelbon's insistence on being moved to play for a team in playoff contention. Not to mention, there's his contract that could pay him up to $32 million through the 2016 season.

His $13 million vested option for 2016 is manageable though—as Heyman pointed out, he would have to finish either 55 games next year or 100 games between this season and 2015 to earn that bonus.

Not letting him reach that plateau, or using him as a setup man to Casey Janssen (which would, admittedly, be rather expensive) once the deal was made would neutralize that problem.

Using that desire to switch clubs, in addition to his large contract (he's still owed $13 million next year), Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos should be able to keep top prospects Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Daniel Norris out of any potential trade.

Now onto how much he'd help the Jays.

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
The Jays need to bolster their bullpen and give closer Casey Janssen some support.

Toronto currently ranks in the bottom third of the league in bullpen ERA, WHIP, opponents batting average, and overall base on balls (yet 15 teams' bullpens have thrown more innings).

Yikes.

Contrast that with Papelbon's season, which has seen him post impressive numbers in all of those statistical categories.

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He posted a 1.21 ERA in 37.1 IP before the All-Star Break. His WHIP was a sparkling 0.86. He walked batters at a rate of just 2.2 per nine innings (which is a great number according to FanGraphs). As for opposing batters? They've hit just .177 with a .438 OPS (per foxsports.com) against the righty.

And in case the thought of him playing in the National League comes to mind as an explanation for these numbers, his 309 ERA+ (which takes into consideration ballparks and a pitcher's league) indicates that he's pitched well above average (100).

No matter how you slice it, Papelbon would be an instant upgrade for the Jays in an area that they must address before July 31. Especially considering that he can be acquired at a relatively cheap price.

Having a second reliable right-hander to complement Casey Janssen and southpaws Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup could go a long way to helping this Jays team make a postseason push. The fact that he's driven by the desire to win, and has a World Series title under his belt is an added bonus.

 

All statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Jon Reid is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Follow him on twitter @JonReidCSM.

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