TBOH Debate: Can the Philadelphia Phillies trade Jonathan Papelbon or Cliff Lee?


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Every week, the writers of That Ball’s Outta Here debate the key issues facing the Philadelphia Phillies.  Joining me this week are Alex Cheremeteff, Brian Iovine, and Michael Lecke. We will discuss how likely it is that either Jonathan Papelbon or Cliff Lee gets traded.

Does the Huston Street trade make your more or less confident that the Phillies can trade Papelbon?


Regardless of the Huston Street trade, if the Phillies are willing to eat at least half of Jonathan Papelbon’s salary, then Ruben Amaro should be able to find a willing dance partner.

Two legitimate American League contenders, the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, could use Papelbon to bolster the back-end of the bullpen. The Orioles have been going with a bullpen-by-committee. Most notably, Tommy Hunter and Zach Britton have been inconsistent in closing out games.

Joe Nathan. Image Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers may be less willing, however. Joe Nathan is one of the highest paid closers in the majors, and taking on even half of Papelbon’s salary might be a stretch, even for Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch. Yes, Nathan has 20 saves, but his performance this season has been less than stellar – to the tune of a 5.89 ERA.

The bottom line is Papelbon doesn’t want to be here. And before he has a chance to divide the clubhouse, Amaro needs to find him a new home.


With Huston Street headed to the Angels, I am slightly more confident that the Phillies will be able to move Jonathan Papelbon, even though there is now one less team that would interested in acquiring him. There are still enough potential contenders out there who are in need of capable relievers, and Papelbon has undoubtedly played quite well thus far. Teams like the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers are looking to bolster their bullpen, and Pap is looking to pack his bags and play for a contender.

If the obstacle that is his contract can be overcome, then the Phillies’ closer should draw some serious interest.


It really depends how motivated Ruben Amaro is to get rid of him. I don’t think the Phillies will trade him for the sake of trading him. He might be a bit abrasive at times, but he reportedly has been a good mentor for the young relievers.

The question then becomes: Would the return be worth it? It’s a given that they’ll have to eat a healthy chunk of his contract, and I can’t see them getting much more than a mid-level prospect for him.

Then again, despite what Phillies fans may think, Amaro isn’t the only general manager who overvalues the closer. It can be maddening to have a contending team undone by an inability to hold a late-inning lead. If the Dodgers start blowing a few games in the eighth and ninth, they might become more motivated.

If they can get anything decent in return, he’ll be gone, but I doubt they’d just give him away just for the sake of it.


The market for closers seems healthy as usual at the trade deadline but I’m not so sure the market for Papelbon is strong. If anything, other GMs are laying back to see how eager the Phillies are to deal him. Maybe they smell blood in the water and want a cheap meal.

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Will Cliff Lee still be a Phillie at the end of the 2014 season?


Cliff Lee is not going anywhere between now and the end of the season. Period. Coming off an elbow injury and a sub par performance in his first start back, pretty much guarantee that.

No general manager in his right mind would take on that kind of money for damaged goods. However, should Lee bounce back with a strong second-half, expect to see a few suitors lined up at the general manager’s office at One Citizens Bank Way.


I anticipate that Cliff Lee will remain a member of the Phillies, even though trade rumors have (and will continue) to swirl around him. He has a fantastic track record in the playoffs, but he will also be 36 years old by the time the playoffs start. He’s recently returned from an elbow injury, and he certainly showed his rust on Monday night against the San Francisco Giants, giving up six runs on twelve hits.

Lee is going to need time to shake off the rust and show potential suitors that he’s worth his substantial contract, and he’s going to need more than a few starts to do that. Unless a contender is willing to go all in, Lee will likely remain in Philadelphia… for now.


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If Lee had come out strong on Monday, then I’d say a trade was more likely. After he struggled, I’d say it’s likely he stays around. Even if he pitches well his next time out, is that enough to end the concerns about his health?

It’s still possible that he gets traded after the deadline, but he’d have to pass through waivers, and I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening. The Yankees and Dodgers would almost assuredly claim him, figuring that his contract was worth the risk of getting Cliff Lee for nothing.

Lee is probably going to be a Phillie for the rest of the year. We’ll then have to see what happens in the offseason.


I think Cliff Lee will be gone; if we are lucky they will send Phillipe Aumont back along with him.

Though Lee looked mortal in his last outing, one or two sub par starts isn’t going to stop a deal. It it may cost the Phillies some dollars. But Lee is too good to pass up for serious contenders.

In the aftermath we can only hope the return in prospects isn’t worthy of ridicule as it has been whenever Cliff Lee is dealt. Only Justin Smoak has had any value and he’s far from the sure thing he was hyped to be. The rest have been washouts.

What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!