Trading Papelbon would solve little for Phillies

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Trading Papelbon would solve little for Phillies

Few opinions in this city are as close to unanimous as "the Phillies need to trade Jonathan Papelbon."

But the more you examine this 2014 Phillies roster and the overall offseason landscape, the more confusing such a move would look.

Jim Salisbury reported Wednesday that the Phillies are "selling the [crap] out of" Papelbon and would be willing to pay part of his salary to move him. Salisbury points out that the Phils approached the Indians about a deal but Cleveland wasn't interested.

The question here is: What's the point of even trading Papelbon if you'll have to pay part of his salary and then go sign a free-agent closer? 

Is it possible to save money?
Papelbon is owed $26 million over the next two seasons. If the Phillies pick up, say, $6 million in each season, and also want a solid closer like Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney or Joaquin Benoit, they'd end up committing the same amount of money to the closer position. All three of those guys are in line for two- or three-year deals worth $8 million to $10 million annually.

Unless the plan is to just go completely cheap on the bullpen and ride with the young guys -- which sounds good in theory but would likely be an abject disaster and would go against all the closer principles Ruben Amaro Jr. cited after signing Papelbon -- you're not going to save money on a trade. Amaro said Wednesday on "Philly Sports Talk" that "the best way for us to win is with a top-notch closer."

If the Phils trade Papelbon and don't sign another pricey closer, they could reallocate that money to the rotation. But ... all signs this offseason have indicated the Phillies are more interested in mid-tier starters like Bronson Arroyo, Scott Feldman and Ryan Vogelsong than they are in actual difference-makers like Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez. 

Papelbon's decline was overstated
Yes, Papelbon had the lowest strikeout rate of his career in 2013. Yes, his velocity decreased to a career-low average of 92.0 mph.

But while the majority claims he's in decline, his most important stats didn't show that.

Papelbon had a 2.92 ERA in 2013, a lower mark than he had in 2010 or 2011. His WHIP (1.135) was lower than it was in 2009 or 2010. Everyone wants to talk about the strikeout rate, but his walk rate (1.6 per nine) was the third-best of his career.

And it's not like Papelbon simply got lucky. His FIP -- which removes team defense from the equation and measures a pitcher on the ERA scale using the controllable elements of strikeouts, walks and homers allowed -- was 3.05. That ranked 15th among all NL relievers. Not what you want from the highest-paid closer in the game, but still quite productive.

Papelbon was worth 1.0 WAR this past season. The other 20 relievers used by the Phillies combined for minus-1.2 WAR. That should tell you all you need to know about the fragility of this 'pen. The Phillies have made low-risk additions in Brad Lincoln and Shawn Camp but haven't come close to substantially improving the relief corps.

Attitude issues
Papelbon's attitude issues were well-documented before Amaro signed him to a four-year deal. It's not like the Phillies went into this marriage blindly.

And however much Papelbon's personality affects the clubhouse, his absence at the back-end of the bullpen would impact the team's record more in 2014. And based on the signings these last six months of Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies care about their 2014 record.

The one caveat
The obvious exception to all of this is that if a team does pony up a legit prospect to acquire Papelbon, the Phillies should seize the opportunity. Because then the Phils would still be spending close to $13 million at closer assuming they eat money and also sign Balfour/Benoit/Rodney, but they'd also have one more prospect.

But no team was willing to take on Papelbon's deal at the trade deadline, and with Balfour, Rodney, Benoit, John Axford and Chris Perez available in free agency, there don't figure to be many teams now lining up to part with young talent to acquire the Phillies' closer.

Barring that unlikely trade, the Phils will probably have to keep Papelbon. And, moody as he may be, the 2014 team will likely be better off for it.

Phillies-Marlins rained out Tuesday; makeup date to be determined

Phillies-Marlins rained out Tuesday; makeup date to be determined

Tuesday night's Phillies-Marlins game at Citizens Bank Park has been postponed because of rain.

Details for a makeup date will be announced at a later time.

The Phillies, winnners of four straight, were set to open a three-game set against Miami.

Following this series, the Phillies head out on a seven-game road trip starting Friday night against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Vince Velasquez, who was scheduled to pitch Tuesday, will now start Wednesday night's game, while Jeremy Hellickson will take the mound Thursday afternoon.

Vince Papale to Brock Stassi: 'We call that the last laugh'

Vince Papale to Brock Stassi: 'We call that the last laugh'

Former Eagle Vince Papale, the inspiration for the movie "Invincible," paid a visit to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon to meet Phillies outfielder Brock Stassi. Papale wanted to give him a copy of the film "Invincible" -- a movie Stassi has yet to see -- and talk to another Philadelphia athlete who has played the underdog role.

Papale said he couldn't help but get choked up when he first saw the video of Stassi being interviewed after he made the Phillies' roster (watch above).

"Brock's story came on and I started doing one of these," Papale said as he reached to wipe the fake tears from his eyes. "So I got my wife Janet and I said, 'You gotta come in and see this.' And I texted my son Vince down at Delaware and said, 'You see this guy? He's just like us.'

"I contacted (Phillies publicity director) John (Brazer) and texted him right then and said I wanted the film rights for this."

Stassi, a long shot to make the Phillies' roster, was the feel-good story of the spring. The six-year minor leaguer had a spring training to remember, hitting .306 (19 for 62) with six home runs and 17 RBIs.  

As always, when an underdog makes an impact in Philadelphia, there will be association to past Philly underdogs like Papale or legendary movie character Rocky Balboa.

"I did get a few ["Invincible" references on Twitter]," Stassi said of when he made the team. "A lot of people made that reference and I am honored to even be put in the same category as him."

Papale assumed the role of a reporter and posed a question to Stassi: "What kept you going?"

"Ever since I was drafted, I've believed in myself that I would be here one day," Stassi said. "And after my first spring, I was in extended spring training and that's a place you don't want to be when you are 22 years old at the time. And I ended up learning a lot about myself because you're playing on the back fields in spring training in the middle of the day, in Florida, in front of about five people, so it's really self-motivating.

"And that's kind of where I started to get the hang of pro ball and started believing in myself then. Because my first year was rough. My first year in Williamsport, had a terrible year. But, it ended up working out. It made for a lot of doubters. And it's fun proving people wrong."

Papale smiled and assured Stassi: "We call that the last laugh."