MILWAUKEE – If a contending team wants Jonathan Papelbon, he’s ready to go.
His limited no-trade clause will not be an issue.
The Phillies’ closer racked up his 22nd save –- and third in as many games -- in the team’s 4-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay). Papelbon hopes to get the chance to close out a fourth straight Phillies win on Thursday afternoon.
There’s also something else he clearly wants:
The chance to pitch for a winner again.
After Wednesday night’s game, the subject of this month’s trade deadline came up. Unlike some of his teammates, Papelbon did not shy away from the talk.
Papelbon has allowed just 22 hits and five runs while striking out 32 and walking just nine in 36 1/3 innings this season. He is 22 for 24 in save chances.
He was asked if he hoped his strong performance would make him wanted by a contender.
“Of course, man,” he said. “What kind of question is that?”
Actually, it was a reasonable question. There have been players in the past who have rejected trades from losing teams to contending teams because they were comfortable in their situations. Brian Giles once rejected a trade from San Diego to Boston. The topic actually has some relevance to this Phillies club because veterans Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley both have full no-trade rights. Neither has completely closed the door on a possible trade, but both have expressed a desire to stay with the Phillies.
Papelbon was incredulous that a player would not want to move from a losing team to a contending team.
“What?” he said.
“Some guys want to stay on a losing team?" he said.
“That’s mind-boggling to me,” he said.
So if a contender called, you’re ready to go?
“Yeah,” Papelbon said with an are-you-kidding-me laugh. “I think that’s a no-brainer.”
Papelbon was asked if he believed a contender would come knocking?
“I don’t know,” he said.
Does he hope one will?
“Yes and no,” he said. “You know, I came here for a reason ... and I say that because I'm with a group of guys in the bullpen that can do very special things in the future. I've been waiting for that, you know what I mean? It's fun to be a part of that, it really is. We are there finally with our bullpen. So that aspect of it would kind of suck to leave. But at the same time, winning is the cure-alls of cure-alls."
The Phillies did not make the playoffs in Papelbon’s first two seasons with the club. They are in last place in the NL East this season and on pace for 90 losses.
The Phillies tried to trade Papelbon last winter but found no takers because he was coming off a poor 2013 season and was owed $26 million for 2014 and 2015. Papelbon is owed the remainder of his $13 million salary for this season and $13 million for next season, so he won’t be cheap. Phillies management has indicated that it would absorb some salary in trades and it’s likely they would to move Papelbon. They were willing to eat salary on his deal last winter, but still no takers.
Papelbon is a much better pitcher this season because he is healthy.
“Last year sucked,” he said. “I felt like I had a broke hip all season. I think this year I’ve been able to get my mechanics back on a healthier hip. I’ve been able to drive off it. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Like many Phillies, Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause. He can block deals to 17 teams.
Asked if he would block a deal to a contender, Papelbon shook his head no.
The list of teams to which Papelbon would accept a trade can change yearly. Last year, Detroit was one of the teams he could block. He was asked specifically if he would accept a trade to Detroit and he nodded his head yes.