The Philadelphia Phillies are ready to trade closer Jonathan Papelbon. They are willing to pay a significant portion of his contract. The only question is how the story ends.
The Phils have engaged in recent trade discussions with both Blue Jays and Cubs about Papelbon, according to major-league sources. No deal with either club appears close; the talks are at an “impasse,” one source said.
Papelbon, 34, is guaranteed more than $8 million for the rest of this season, and his $13 million option for next season will vest if he finishes 26 more games; he has finished 22 thus far.
The trade talks hinge on a sliding scale. The Phillies are willing to pay a large percentage of Papelbon’s remaining money to land better prospects. The Jays and Cubs want to pay as little as possible in both dollars and players.
Here, according to sources, is where the conversations stand:
The most recent talks between the Phillies and Jays were late last week. Since then, the Phils have increased their scouting of the Jays’ minor-league affiliates, trying to identify players they might want in a trade.
Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block a deal to the Blue Jays, but the Jays do not believe that would be an issue.
“Yes, Toronto interests me — if it interests (Phillies general manager) Ruben (Amaro Jr.),” Papelbon told CSNPhilly.com in spring training. “I know some of the guys on their coaching staff. They’re a good team. If Ruben can do a deal with them, I’d be interested.”
The Cubs, meanwhile, remain a suitor for Papelbon even after signing free-agent right-hander Rafael Soriano to a minor-league contract Monday that will pay him a pro-rated portion of $4.1 million once he reaches the majors and includes $4 million in incentives.
The Cubs, in fact, signed Soriano in part because they did not want to get left without either him or Papelbon. The team, trying to build as many late-inning options as possible, no longer is locked into Hector Rondon as its closer.
Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer were with the Red Sox when the team selected Papelbon in the fourth round of the 2003 draft — and when Papelbon helped the Sox win the ‘07 World Series.
Though Epstein and Hoyer know Papelbon occasionally is brash and outspoken, they also know teammates respect his work habits and competitive spirit — and that he likely would not cause a distraction in manager Joe Maddon’s clubhouse.
The sense among some in the industry, though, is that the Phillies would prefer to deal with the Blue Jays — perhaps because the Jays would offer better terms, perhaps because the Phillies want Papelbon out of the National League.
Papelbon does not throw as hard as he once did — his average fastball is 92.16 mph, according to brooksbaseball.net — but he continues to get impressive results.
He is 12-for-12 in save opportunities this season with a 1.13 ERA. In 24 innings, he has struck out 29 and walked only six and allowed just one home run.
Last season, he was 39-for-43 in save opportunities with a 2.04 ERA. In 66 1/3 innings, he struck out 63, walked 15 and allowed only two home runs.