We soon may find out just how badly the Phillies want to trade closer Jonathan Papelbon — and how badly the Brewers want to add him when closer types such as Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen are still free agents.
Follow the money.
Papelbon is owed $26 million over the next two seasons if you include his $13 million vesting option for ‘16. The Brewers, a team on Papelbon’s no-trade list, almost certainly would need to guarantee the option to persuade him to approve the deal, sources said.
Article continues below ...
The Phillies included $1 million in the Jimmy Rollins trade and $4 million in the Marlon Byrd deal. They are willing to pay a significant amount of first baseman Ryan Howard’s remaining $60 million to make him disappear. So, how far would they go to purge Papelbon?
Pretty far, probably — the Phils have been trying to move Papelbon for over a year. Let’s say, then, that they were willing to eat half the remaining money, leaving the Brewers to pay Papelbon $13 million over the next two years. The remaining free-agent relievers likely would be less expensive — Janssen earned $4 million next season, Rodriguez $3.25 million — and the Brewers could sign one of them without giving up any players.
Papelbon, 34, is not likely to repeat his strong 2014 performance, for reasons outlined by Rob Neyer in his latest column. His occasionally difficult personality is another potential issue, particularly when the Brewers compare him to Rodriguez, who has pitched for them the past four seasons. The Brewers know that Rodriguez is not disruptive in their clubhouse, though he has had off-the-field incidents in the past.
The Phillies could keep Papelbon, alternate him in the closer’s role with Ken Giles and try to cut a better deal for him in July. Papelbon, as a co-closer, would stand less of a chance of finishing 48 games, the number he needs to vest his option. Only about $6 million would remain on his contract, and relievers always are in demand at the non-waiver deadline.
Papelbon, though, almost certainly would fight such a plan, maybe even file a grievance against such an obvious attempt to avoid paying his option.
The solution, still, is to trade him. The only remaining question is at what price.