Phillies Phantasy Impact: Papelbon Trade

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As the MLB trade deadline rapidly approached this week, the Phillies made a couple trades of significance. First was dealing away closer Jonathan Papelbon in exchange for 22-year old righthanded pitcher Nick Pivetta.Pivetta was then ranked 10th in the Phillies minor league system by MLBpipeline.com.

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This deal has ramifications for fantasy baseball players on a number of fronts. Paplebon goes to Washington and becomes the new Nats’ closer. The former closer, Drew Storen, will slide back and become a setup man and the backup to Paps. With the Phillies, fireballer Ken Giles now ascends to the main closing role.

Fans expected, and many demanded, Papelbon to be traded this year. What most fans didn’t know is what type of return the Phillies could receive. On the surface, trading a closer of Paplebon’s caliber for one unproven minor league pitcher might not sound all that pleasing.

If you look past the headline of “Jonathan Papelbon traded to Washington for Nick Pivetta” and dig deeper into Pivetta, the trade makes a little more sense.

The Phils’ are in the midst of a complete organizational rebuild, and thus had little use for a 34-year old enigmatic closer who may be getting near the end of his career. Though Papelbon’s numbers still look rather good, he was showing signs of declining.

For example, with the Red Sox he carried a mark of 10.7 strikeouts per 9 innings and 4.43 walks per 9 innings. With the Phillies, Papelbon’s strikeout’s per 9 innings dropped to 9.5 while his walks rose to 4.85 per 9 innings.

Still not too bad, right? Well, the fastball is arguably a closer’s number 1 pitch and Pap’s went from an average of 94.8 mph in 2011, his last season with the Red Sox to 91.1 mph this season with the Phillies.

Add in that there is a closer waiting in the wings in Giles, who just happens to be a decade younger, that was enough to free the team of Papelbon’s contract.

What about this Nick Pivetta guy, the prospect that the club acquired? Pivetta’s still probably a year or so away from reaching the majors. He’s raw, with developing stuff, and could be a rotational type of arm. At 6’5″ and weighing 220 pounds, he has the frame and could be a work horse.

If he doesn’t become an arm used in the rotation, Pivetta has a power arm that could still add some velocity, and be a back of the bullpen option. Only time will tell what type of future this kid could have for the Fightins’, and his impact on the fantasy game.

All I’m going to say is, I’m aware of the move and I’ve talked to Mike about it. I’ve talked to my agent about itI’m just going to leave it at that. No comment for now. ” ~ Drew Storen

The two things that I took most from this trade were that the Phillies were able to unload Papelbon and his contract while he still had some good value for a future young prospect to work with, and the trade allows Ken Giles to move into the closer role and get comfortable in it while the club is rebuilding, instead of being thrown in there when each game matters down the stretch in a future playoff run.

Giles seems ready for the role of closer. He won’t turn 25 years old until late September, so he is very much a piece of the Phillies future. In 91 career games, Giles has pitched 91.1 innings, allowing just 67 hits with a 120/31 K:BB ratio. He now needs to get some actual Save opportunities, and settle into handling the pressure of that position.

As far as the future for Jonathan Papelbon, he will instantly be the closer for the Nationals. But in my opinion, it was a bad move for the Nationals. Washington already had an established closer in Storen who had converted 29 of 31 save opportunities with a 1.73 era.

With assurances from the Nationals brass, Papelbon will unseat Storen who will be relegated to a set-up role. On the surface, this looks like a great deal for the Nationals, especially if Storen fully buys in for now, and realistically it is from a statistical point of view. But, when human emotions are involved and the dynamic of 25 players in the locker room are factored, players are bound to take sides whether they express them or keep them to themselves.

It’s not exactly a foregone conclusion that this will splinter the Nationals locker room, but with Storen’s comments about the trade when asked, certainly would that might seem to lend credence that at least Storen himself isn’t exactly excited about the move.

All I’m going to say is, I’m aware of the move and I’ve talked to Mike about it. I’ve talked to my agent about it,” Storen said. “We’ve had some ongoing discussions. Until those have progressed, I’m just going to leave it at that. No comment for now. But as the situation goes, I’ll keep you guys posted.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for everything being hunky dory in DC.  But, that’s the Nationals problem now and not the Phillies. The Phils’ have seemed to begin to turn the corner and are now on the ascent towards brighter days.

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