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.

MLB Notes: White Sox scratch Chris Sale after 'clubhouse incident'

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USA Today Images

MLB Notes: White Sox scratch Chris Sale after 'clubhouse incident'

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale has been scratched from his start against the Detroit Tigers after he was involved in what the team says was a "non-physical clubhouse incident."

The White Sox declined to describe the incident, but said it's "currently under further investigation by the club" and that Sale was sent home from the park.

The move was announced less than a half hour before Saturday's game. Sale was going to attempt to become the first 15-game winner in the majors.

The White Sox planned to use multiple relievers in his place. The start of the game was delayed by rain.

With the White Sox fading from playoff contention, Sale's name has been mentioned as a possible trade target for contending teams.

The left-hander is 14-3 with a 3.18 ERA.

TWINS: Suzuki leaves game after taking foul ball off mask
BOSTON -- Minnesota Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki left Saturday night's game against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning after getting hit in the mask with a foul ball.

Suzuki appeared to have a cut on his chin as he walked to the dugout with a team trainer.

Boston's Dustin Pedroia was at the plate and fouled one off the catcher.

Suzuki was replaced by Juan Centeno.

PADRES: Cuban prospect signs deal with $7 million signing bonus
WASHINGTON -- Top Cuban prospect Jorge Ona and the San Diego Padres have agreed to a minor league contract with a $7 million signing bonus.

The 19-year-old outfielder receives $4.9 million within 30 days of the deal's approval by the commissioner's office and $2.1 million on Jan. 15. The deal is pending a physical.

Ona was ranked as the No. 8 international prospect of the 2016 class by MLB.com and the fourth-best available Cuban player earlier this year by Baseball America.

General manager A.J. Preller said during a conference call Friday that the contract is for 2017. He hopes Ona will play in the fall instructional league and then report for spring training and start his pro career next season.

Instant Replay: Pirates 7, Phillies 4

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Associated Press

Instant Replay: Pirates 7, Phillies 4

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco and David Freese hit two-run singles during a five-run fifth inning to rally the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 7-4 victory over the Phillies on Saturday at PNC Park.

Polanco’s hit put the Pirates ahead 4-3 and chased starter Aaron Nola. Freese’s hit off Severino Gonzalez pushed the lead to three runs and Francisco Cervelli capped the inning with a sacrifice fly as Pittsburgh won for the fourth time in six games.

Nola (5-9) allowed six runs in four-plus innings to take the loss. Center fielder Odubel Herrera went 3 for 4 with a triple as the Phillies outhit the Pirates, 12-7.

Catcher Cameron Rupp left the game in the third inning after being struck in the left ear flap of his helmet by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow (see story). Rupp was found to have no concussion symptoms.

Starting pitching report
The bad Nola returned after pitching six scoreless innings in his previous outing Monday against the Miami Marlins. Prior to shutting down the Marlins, Nola allowed a combined 30 runs in five starts while failing to get past the fourth inning four times.

On Saturday, Nola gave up six hits, walked two and struck out five. He needed 80 pitches to get 12 outs.

Nola’s clunker came after Phillies starters allowed no more than one run or five hits in four of the previous five games. On Friday night in the opener of the three-game series in Pittsburgh, rookie right-hander Zach Elfin pitched a three-hitter for his first career shutout in the Phillies’ 4-0 victory over the Pirates.

At the plate
Herrera is 6 for 9 in the first two games of the series after going 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games. He tripled in the sixth inning and scored the game’s last run on a single by Andres Blanco.

Cesar Hernandez hit a pair of RBI singles and was one of four Phillies with two hits along with Blanco, Tommy Joseph and Carlos Ruiz, the last of whom took over behind the plate for Rupp. Joseph also hit an RBI single.

The Phillies held a 12-8 edge in hits.

Up next
The Phillies finish their three-game series with the Pirates at 1:35 p.m. Sunday then open a three-game series against the Marlins on Monday night at Miami.

The projected starters for the next four days:

Sunday afternoon --- RHP Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.15) vs. RHP Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.44)

Monday night --- RHP Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 3.84) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (5-4, 4.99)

Tuesday night --- RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42)

Wednesday afternoon --- RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40) vs. LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58)

Cameron Rupp leaves game vs. Pirates after getting hit in head by pitch

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Associated Press

Cameron Rupp leaves game vs. Pirates after getting hit in head by pitch

Updated - 5:55 p.m.

PITTSBURGH -- Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp left the game in the third inning after being struck on the left ear flap of his batting helmet by a pitch from Pirates rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow.

Rupp walked off the field under his own power and backup catcher Carlos Ruiz pinch ran for him and stayed in the game to catch starter Aaron Nola.

The Phillies later announced Rupp was removed from the game as a precaution and that he showed no symptoms of a concussion.

Less than 24 hours before, Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco was hit in the wrist by a pitch thrown by Pirates starter Gerrit Cole in Friday's 4-0 victory at PNC Park. Franco left the game and did not start on Saturday afternoon. He's listed as day to day (see story).

In the first inning on Saturday, Rupp hit into an inning-ending ground out. He is hitting .276 with 10 home runs in 63 games.