Jonathan Papelbon Trade Talks Brewing
By Matt Veasey
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro continues to work hard this off-season in an attempt to unload as many of the aging, high-salaried players on his roster at as solid a price as he can get. The latest heated rumors involve closer Jonathan Papelbon and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Amaro has had serious discussions in recent days with Doug Melvin, the GM of the Brew Crew, trying to negotiate a price for the veteran righthander. That price is likely to include not only what the Phils will get in return, but also how much of Papelbon’s contract they are willing to eat.
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Papelbon is due to earn a $13 million salary for the 2015 season, and he has a very easily attainable vesting option for another $13 million for 2016. For the option to vest, he needs only to finish 34 games in the coming season, a mark that he has easily surpassed for 9 consecutive years.
There are a few hurdles, not the least of which is Papelbon’s contract beyond his salary. He has a limited no-trade clause allowing him to block trades to 17 teams. It is not known whether Milwaukee is one of those teams, but if so it becomes more likely that he would want that 2016 option picked up before approving a deal.
For the Brewers part, they are surely considering themselves at least a dark-horse playoff contender for the coming season. The club spent a significant portion of 2014 atop the N.L. Central Division before fading to a 3rd place finish.
With PED-tainted slugger Ryan Braun reportedy healthy and preparing for what the Brewers hope is a big bounce-back campaign after two down years, the offense could be exciting. Joining Braun in the outfield is a potential MVP candidate in centerfielder Carlos Gomez, as well as both Kris Davis and Gerardo Parra.
In the infield, Milwaukee features a potentially dynamic left-side of 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Jean Segura. And their best player now may be catcher Jonathan Lucroy, one of the top emerging all-around backstops in the game.A Papelbon trade would move
(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
On the mound, the Brewers have a rotation featuring Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, and young Jimmy Nelson. They would probably love to get in on the Cole Hamels trade talks, but likely don’t have the prospect package to get such a deal done.
In the bullpen, Papelbon would become a lockdown closer. Despite some controversial and colorful incidents, and a noticeable loss of pitching “stuff”, he has continued to excel as a closer. He would fortify the back-end of the bullpen, allowing Jonathan Broxton so slide into a setup role for which he may be more suited.
An arm that might interest the Phils, and that might be just the type to come back in this type of deal, is hard-throwing 25-year old righty Taylor Jungmann. A big 6’6″ sinkerballer, Jungmann could move right into the AAA rotation, battling for a spot at the back-end of the Phillies rotation some time this summer.
Other prospects that might be available to the Phillies in a Papelbon trade include RHP’s Corey Knebel and Jorge Lopez, and outfielders Kyle Wren and Michael Reed. It might be possible for Amaro to pry loose a higher-rated prospect, but that might entail eating all of Papelbon’s salary, something the GM might be willing to consider.
Jonathan Papelbon turned 34-years old back in November, so he’s obviously not getting any younger and has probably moved past his prime. However, he remains a healthy, proven, effective closer who has experience shutting down the biggest games in some of the game’s biggest markets. He would be an excellent pickup for the Brewers. Now it seems that it’s just about finding a price.