Could Jonathan Papelbon Be Trade Bait?

It still seems way too early to write off Boston's 2010 season, but as of today, the Red Sox stand eight games behind Tampa Bay for first place in the AL East.  The way the Rays and Yankees (when healthy) have played this season, it will be hard for the Red Sox to make a run at either the division lead or the wild card barring either an extended hot streak on their part or a big collapse from one of the leaders.

Should July roll around and the Sox still haven't made their move, club management may decide that adding players would be fruitless and instead turn their attention to reloading for 2011.  Boston is hoping they get some trade offers for the likes of Mike Lowell and David Ortiz, but perhaps the most intriguing possible pick-up for a contender would be Jonathan Papelbon.  The closer is having a solid season (3.15 ERA, 10 saves out of 11 chances), but there are some outliers that suggest Papelbon isn't quite the dominant closer he was just a couple of seasons ago.

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe suggests that Papelbon was overworked during the 2008 postseason and has never been quite the same since.  He points to Papelbon's ballooning walk rate, which went from 2.1 BB/9 over the first four years of his career to 3.2 BB/9 in 2009 and 4.5 BB/9 this season.  Papelbon's srikeouts are down too — he has just a 6.8 K/9 ratio this season, well below the 10.4 K/9 average he posted in the first five years of his career.

Papelbon's slight decline could force the Red Sox to make a hard choice when it comes to the prospect of a long-term contract for their star closer.  Papelbon avoided arbitration last winter when he signed a one-year, $9.35MM deal, and he still has one more arbitration year left before becoming a free agent after the 2011 season.  As ESPN's Rob Neyer puts it, since Papelbon is still having an overall good season, "he'll get a raise next year and probably a nice one. Is a reasonably good reliever worth (say) $11 million?"  The presence of Daniel Bard as Boston's closer of the future is even more incentive for the Sox to think about moving Papelbon sooner rather than later.

Given Papelbon's pedigree, the right-hander would likely be a much more reliable midseason addition for a contender than other possible available closers as Matt Capps or Kevin Gregg.  If Brad Lidge can't pull himself together and Jose Contreras comes back to earth, the Phillies could be in the market for a proven closer.  Same with Colorado, should the Franklin Morales/Manuel Corpas tandem not work out.  Even the Angels could be a possibility if they can turn things around — if Brian Fuentes continues to struggle, L.A. might not be comfortable handing the job over to Fernando Rodney.

20 Responses to Could Jonathan Papelbon Be Trade Bait? Leave a Reply

  1. nhsox 5 years ago

    I know this posting is about Papelbon’s trade potential, but from what I’ve heard from Boston media, the Sox waited for Ortiz to get hot and he has. They likely aren’t going to try to move him.

  2. Rich G 5 years ago

    Well the Red Sox bulllpen is not much right now so I would say no for now.

  3. Potrzeba 5 years ago

    What would we be able to get for him?

  4. 0bsessions 5 years ago

    This article is off-base on so many levels.

    First and foremost, the Red Sox are a whopping 3.5 games back on the Wild Card with only 120 games left to play. Yeah, it’s looking to essentially be a given that they’re not catching the Rays (It’s starting to look like nobody will), but the Yanks are running into the injury bug pretty badly lately and are under .500 over the last two weeks. It doesn’t just SEEM too early to write them off, it IS waaaaay too early write them off. They’re currently playing without 2/3 of their starting outfield and one of their starting pitchers, yet they just went 3 out of 4 against two of the top three records in the AL and came within an inning of taking all four of them.

    Which brings me to the other part: Papelbon is NOT having a good season. His saves are up there, but his peripherals are pretty average. On top of that, he’s insanely expensive for a relief pitcher. He’s just not very attractive trade bait. Most teams that are more likely to contend going forward than the Sox are already have an equivalent or better closer, who would want him?

    • johnsilver 5 years ago

      With you on this. Papelbon at this time in an arbitration case would probably be looking at 12-13M as an estimate, more than what he has looked like in my eyes. Bard would bring more in a trade and probably be the guy teams would want, but almost certainly not available.

      before the 2009 season, or mid way thru last year would have been the time to move Papelbon if the sox were not in contention, not now making so much unless Boston is willing to eat a chunk of his salary, negating any reason to move him, especially with Ramirez and Okajima be so erratic this season.

    • ReverendBlack 5 years ago

      The number decreases every year of teams silly enough to spend ~$12m on a reliever. Of the small set of teams still that silly and/or desperate enough for help that they’d go for it, what do they have to offer?

      It’s just such a goofy proposition. Quintessential no-story sports writing. Hhaaaaatttte Boston media.

  5. Ferrariman 5 years ago

    Can’t see a trade. With his hefty salary , I don’t think he would bring in a top 100 pick. Andl if he has limited trade value, the redsox shouldn’t just trade him for the sake of trading him.

  6. BoSoXaddict 5 years ago

    A Papelbon trade is a paradox because the Sox won’t trade him unless it’s part of a deal for a BIG bat and no team is likely to offer a big bat for him with his expected 2011 salary. I think it’s been more or less predetermined for some time that Papelbon will be the closer throughout 2011 at which point Bard will take over and Paps will presumably move on to the highest bidder..maybe the Yankees, who knows..I wouldn’t put it past either of them.

    • ReverendBlack 5 years ago

      Yes indeed. I think by “paradox” here you mean “ridiculous idea talked about only by people with nothing else to talk about”.

  7. ZeroZeroZero 5 years ago

    Its absolutely ridiculous to think the Red Sox will get anything of value in return for Mike Lowell or David Ortiz. Despite what talking head clowns like Peter Gammons says, other teams arent just going to fork over talented young players to the Red Sox for the hell of it. Unless the Sox are willing to part with Papelbon, Buccholz, or Lester theyre not going to do any stocking up for the future. I only mention those 3 because the rest of the MLB roster doesnt have much to offer as far as trades go (between money owed and age) and trading the kids in the minor to get a productive player for not doesnt make sense for the future. The Red Sox are in a pretty ugly spot going forward if they sit pat.

    • Steve_in_MA 5 years ago

      I agree with you on Lowell because he really hasn’t proven to be an offensive force in his MLB at bats. Ortiz, on the other hand, is one of the leaders of the MLB in batting and HR’s for May, or very close to it (I haven’t checked the latest numbers since seeing .358 AVG & 7 HR’s). He might bring some youth on the trade market if the Sox ate a significant portion of his salary. I strongly disagree with your assessment of the Sox being in an ugly place for the future. Here’s why:1. Gold Glove/Poss. Batting Champ (2010) at 1B/3B (Youk – Age 31);2. MVP/Silver Slugger at 2B (Pedey – Age 26);3. Stolen Base Champ/+.300 Hitter at CF/LF (Ellsbury – Age 26);4. Young Pitching Squad (30/under) – Beckett, Buccholz, Lester, Bard, Delcarmen; and5. Strong/Good Prospects for 2012 – Anderson (1B), Kelly (SP), Doubrount (SP), Exposito (C), Iglesias (SS), Reddick (OF).Are we guaranteed to be champs, far from it. Are we going to remain competitive, definitely. Could we use more youth, definitely. Are we in an ugly spot, I think not.

      • umair56 5 years ago

        I definitely think the Red Sox are in good shape in the future. I especially love the way Theo’s been drafting so you know any extra picks the Sox get will be used well. The Sox definitely look like they’re in better shape in the future than the Yankees, Rays are in a league of their own though.

      • westmoreland and tazawa too once they get back from injury, both young with lots of upside

        • BoSoXaddict 5 years ago

          You have to remember that there is a very real chance that Westmoreland will never place baseball again. I certainly hope that’s not the case but his priority in life right now is to get himself completely healthy and ensure that he has a sutiable quality of is not in the cards for a while.

    • samuelLsamson 5 years ago

      And yet during the off season the Rangers had agreed a trade for Lowell which would have brought the promising young catcher Max Ramirez to Boston in return. This was all agreed and only foundered on Lowell’s medical, specifically his thumb needing an operation. He had that operation and is hitting well enough in limited action to reassure potential trade partners of the health of his hand. So while it would be foolish to expect a top prospect in return for Lowell, if the Red Sox are willing to chip in a decent chunk of his salary (and they were willing to pay 75% of it in that Ramirez deal) then they could get back a useful piece. Theo Epstein has shown he likes to get veterans a new team where they can contribute and be happy. I definitely wouldn’t rule out Lowell being moved on.

  8. Steelslayer 5 years ago

    I am a Jays fan and I think it would be stupid for the sox to get rid of him. Yes they seem to need some more offence, but Papelbon is a feared closer and should not be written off based on a few blown saves or as was stated by someone earlier some “average peripherals”. Having a backend bullpen of Bard and Papelbon is awesome considering what other teams have. Hey the Jays are using Kevin Gregg, and while he is leading the league in saves right now, I would much rather have Papelboner

  9. melonis_rex 5 years ago

    I can’t see someone trading for Papelbon. 11-13MM relievers are antiquated now, and Papelbon is not a top 5 closer.

    I agree that the Red Sox trading him at the deadline is ridiculous, because frankly, they aren’t falling out of contention.

    If he does not put up decent enough peripherals to warrant a trade, I’d nontender him, to be honest. Even if the Sox are a huge market team, that money would definitely be better spent elsewhere, and the Red Sox don’t have infinite payroll resources and play in a very tight division.

    The money can be spent elsewhere.

    • Ferrariman 5 years ago

      “papelbon is not a top 5 closer”

      yes he is.

      • if hes not a top 5 closers then i dont know what a top 5 closer is…i remember last year he came in for the save a couple times with the bases loaded in the 9th and struck out the side, thats pretty impressive…

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