At this time of year, most of what you read from national baseball writers is probably unreliable.
Not that the reporters themselves are inaccurate in their reporting. They are likely regurgitating most of what they are being told from team executives, many of them probably general managers, assistant GMs, team presidents, etc. Teams are solidly engaged in disinformation campaign right now, the Phillies too.
So you have to take every story you see out there with a grain of salt. That being said, national writers are reporting some potentially distressing news regarding the likelihood of Jonathan Papelbon being traded.
I'm getting no sense the #Phillies have any traction in a Papelbon deal. That $13M option for 2016 remains a sticking point.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 22, 2015
And Stark wrote about it more fully in a piece that came out on Wednesday.
Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who has expressed his desire to be traded multiple times this season, is no longer being actively pursued by the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Three weeks ago, those three teams looked most likely to trade for Papelbon, but now it's a strong possibility the Phillies won't be able to trade him at all before the July 31 trading deadline.
Several sources have confirmed that the Phillies were so close to moving Papelbon last month that they were telling teams to make their best offer. Then they abruptly pulled back, apparently to wait for the hiring of Andy MacPhail as their next team president.
Now, however, there are indications that the Phillies might have missed their best window to trade Papelbon, whose $13 million vesting option for 2016 remains a major hurdle.
The Papelbon market is a complicated one, for a few reasons.
First, there is no doubt he is having an incredible season, the best he's had in his four years in Philadelphia. After needing just 20 pitches to hurl two shutout innings in Wednesday's 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, Paps lowered his ERA to 1.63 on the season, with a FIP of 2.98 and an xFIP of 3.20. He is striking out 9.08 batters per nine innings, which would be the most since 2012 when he K'd 11.83 per nine.
And, as we all know, he is always the life of the party.
Odubel Herrera wanted no part of this pic.twitter.com/Do6Yg6FyFD— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) July 22, 2015
His $13 million option for 2016 is almost certain to vest for next year, and that apparently is giving teams pause. But why? As he ages, Papelbon has gotten even better. Why are teams so terrified of his contract? If he was a free agent, wouldn't there be at least one team willing to give him a one-year deal at $13 million?
The Phillies shouldn't have to pick up any of Pap's contract next year. That would be the "perfect world" scenario. But we don't live in a perfect world, and no team has been willing to take on the entire contract.
So, here's the deal. Even though they shouldn't have to pick up Pap's option for 2016, the Phillies should agree to pay all of his vesting option in order to get a team to give up a solid prospect. And if that is indeed the chief stumbling block in negotiations right now, it's inexcusable. Money should be no object for the Phils.
It's also disheartening to read that they were close enough to finishing a Papelbon deal that they were taking final offers from teams, but pulled back because of the MacPhail hire. Too many chefs in the kitchen could be what kills this trade deadline.
However, there is more to it than that. The closers market is absolutely flooded right now, with Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman, San Diego's Craig Kimbrel, and Milwaukee's Francisco Rodriguez all on the market. And as Stark noted in his piece, teams have either started to fill those spots internally or are focusing on starting pitching before relief pitchers.
So clearly there are obstacles, and it's highly possible a deal doesn't get done before July 31. If it doesn't, then the question becomes, can the Phils move him in August?
After the deadline passes, Papelbon will have to go on waivers in order to be dealt, and any team that claims him will have an opportunity to either make a trade for him or pick up his entire contract, should the Phillies waive him. Given the season he's having, will there be a team willing to take on the approximately $4-5 million left on his deal for this year and the $13 million option for '16?
Given the supposed consternation from team executives about Pap's deal in the national articles, logic would dictate that Papelbon would clear waivers. However, I find it hard to believe someone wouldn't put in a claim, even if it was just to block another team from getting him. So if a team does claim him and a deal can't be worked out, would the Phils just let him go for nothing, just to clear payroll and move on with the rebuild?
I don't see the Phils giving up Papelbon for nothing. I also don't see him clearing waivers. That means he could be here all season, something that would probably melt Jonathan's face off.
Of course, this all could change in the blink of an eye. Perhaps as the clock ticks closer to deadline time on July 31, and some of the other top names on the market are claimed, a market will re-develop for Papelbon.
But for everyone's sake, a Papelbon deal needs to happen. You just hope the Phils haven't missed their chance.