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Phillies Rumors: Papelbon Struggles; Burnett Shines

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While starter A.J. Burnett helped his trade stock on Wednesday night, Jonathan Papelbon has struggled.

Sorry Jon. It looks like you may have to stay.
Sorry Jon. It looks like you may have to stay.
Mitchell Leff

As a potential Jonathan Papelbon suitor went off the board last night, the Phils' veteran closer stumbled for the second straight game.

On Tuesday night, Papelbon blew only his third save of the year, allowing a one-out home run to Buster Posey that tied the game at 5-5. The Giants would go on to win in extra innings, however, it was the first home run Papelbon had allowed all season, and he gave it up to one of the best hitters in baseball. That's going to happen.

Last night, however, Papelbon made it even harder for any team that is considering acquiring him to do so. He entered the ninth inning of last night's scoreless game against San Francisco and gave up three runs on a bases loaded bloop double down the right field line with two outs to former Phil Hunter Pence.

The double was not a hard-hit ball and it came on a 3-2 count with two outs. However, Papelbon put himself in danger by hitting a batter and walking two others (one intentionally), although he appeared to have Pence struck out on a 2-2 breaking ball that was called a ball.

These last two games are a stark contrast to his performance for most of the season, and come at the worst time. But perhaps none of it even matters.

During the game, the Detroit Tigers, one of the teams reportedly showing interest in Papelbon (as well as Antonio Bastardo), acquired Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers, which takes them out of the closer sweepstakes.

Scouts for Detroit had been watching the Phillies for the last few days, according to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury, who said they may still be interested in Bastardo. However, among teams looking for closers, the list has now been whittled down some more.

Baltimore could still be looking for a closer, as could San Francisco, and while Papelbon's ERA is still a sterling 1.96, his xFIP of 4.00 is a bad forward-looking indicator. And now with the Tigers no longer in need of a closer, it's more likely than not Papelbon will continue to be the Phillies' save-getter after July 31.

A.J. Burnett's Superb Audition

If A.J. Burnett were an actor auditioning for a part, last night, he would have gotten whatever part he wanted.

With scouts from Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the stands, both there specifically to see him pitch, Burnett twirled perhaps his best game of the season. He went eight shutout innings, threw 131 pitches (the second-most in his career and the most since 2002), and gave up just four hits and four walks with six strikeouts. His ERA is now 3.86 for the season.

Making it even more impressive, Burnett has a hernia and he sat through an hour-long rain delay.

Of course, there is this concern.

Um, I'm going to pretend I didn't see that. Seriously, Pirates and Orioles, there's nothing to worry about here. Burnett is totally cool.

Marlon Byrd Asking Price

Apparently, the Phillies are asking for the moon for Marlon Byrd.

Byrd is the best offensive outfielder currently on the market, so it's OK that Amaro is asking a lot for him right now. However, it's a dicey game to play. If teams aren't biting, he has to know when to lower the asking price and keep the fish interested before they peel off and go after another hook.

Having the best power-hitting outfielder on the market is only worthwhile if there are teams that are willing to acquire him. One would think there are interested parties that could use a right fielder with 19 HRs and 58 RBIs, but if the Phils hold onto their demands for too long, they could scare teams right out of the water.

This is Amaro's job. This is what he's paid to do, to gauge the market and act accordingly. And the Phillies don't have to move him right now. They could trade him in August or over the winter. That carries risks, such as Byrd regressing in the second half, him getting injured, and teams with a need not as motivated to buy.

However, the free agent outfield market next year is very thin, so if Byrd finishes the season the way he has started it, there should still be some interested suitors over the winter.

Yankees Not Hot For Cliff Lee... Yet

A report by ESPN New York says the Yankees were not impressed by Lee's first start off the disabled list, and are not "hot and heavy" for him at the moment. From ESPN's Andrew Marchand...

Cliff Lee came back Monday and didn't look too good. As of today, the Yankees are not hot and heavy for him, a source told ESPN New York. The Phillies are asking for a lot at this point for Lee, even though he will turn 36 at the end of August and is owed anywhere from $47.5 million to $62.5 million over the next three years. There are questions about his health, which he didn't quell Monday in his return from the DL.

And, as Peter Gammons noted this morning...

None of this is a surprise. Teams are going to need to see more from Lee, and unless he looks way sharper in his next start, the last one he'll make before the July 31 deadline, he will likely still be a Phillie heading into August, and likely into the winter as well.

New York is also inquiring about the Chicago White Sox' John Danks, and if they acquire that veteran left-hander, it will likely rule them out as a potential suitor for Lee. And, of course, Lee would need to accept a trade to New York, something that is in doubt.