Jonathan Papelbon Rumors

Latest On Orioles’ Closer Situation

Here's the latest on the Orioles' pursuit of a closer courtesy of a series of tweets from MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The Orioles are upset at the idea that they "backed out" of their agreement with Grant Balfour, as they don't have another closer in waiting. They heeded their doctors' recommendations after Balfour's physical, and now would not be comfortable signing him for more than a year plus an option.

With a deal with Balfour now unlikely, the Orioles could pursue Fernando Rodney, or just give their closer's job to one of their current pitchers. Free agent Chris Perez does not seem to be a possibility. The Orioles have discussed the possibility of a Jonathan Papelbon trade with the Phillies, but Papelbon's contract is an obstacle. The Phillies owe Papelbon $13MM in both 2014 and 2015, and he also has a $13MM vesting option for 2016.


Phillies Shopping Jonathan Papelbon

WEDNESDAY: The Phillies are "selling the crap out of [Papelbon]," one executive told Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly. The Phillies are willing to pay some of Papelbon's salary to facilitate a trade, according to Salisbury. One source told Salisbury that the Phillies approached the Indians and offered to pay part of Papelbon's salary, but the Indians weren't interested.

SUNDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also hears that the Phils are shopping Papelbon, adding that there's a belief that the Phils would like to reallocate Papelbon's salary to a starting pitcher (Twitter link).

FRIDAY, 6:45pm: The Red Sox are one of the teams on Papelbon's no-trade list, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports (Twitter link).  With Koji Uehara closing and the likes of Junichi Tazawa and the newly-acquired Edward Mujica as bullpen depth, it's very unlikely the Sox would've had interest in bringing Papelbon back anyway.

2:47pm: The Phillies are trying to trade Jonathan Papelbon, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The Phillies could move the right-hander, who is set to earn $13MM in each of the next two seasons, and look to sign a more affordable closer, Rosenthal adds in a second tweet. Papelbon's deal also has a $13MM vesting option for the 2016 season that triggers if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 games between 2014-15. Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly adds (via Rosenthal) that Papelbon's no-trade protection allows him to select 12 teams to which he will approve a deal.

Papelbon, 33, saved 29 games and posted a 2.92 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 61 2/3 innings for the Phillies in 2013 — the second season of a four-year, $50MM deal. Though his superficial numbers appear strong, Papelbon's average fastball velocity dropped to a career-low 92 mph, and his 10.6 percent swinging-strike rate was also the lowest of his career.

Papelbon's name surfaced in trade rumors over the summer, as he was believed by some to be available with the Phillies looking to shed payroll and get younger. Papelbon made some incendiary remarks about the direction of the Phillies in July, flatly stating, "I definitely didn't come here for this." Asked about the contract in retrospect, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said in August that he would make the signing again and had no regrets other than they way the team has played as a whole. In an interview later that month, Amaro called Papelbon "crucial" to the Phillies' success and said he expected to see Papelbon closing out games for the Phils in 2014.

It's a tough time to be shopping an expensive closer, as the market bears plenty of options in the form of Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Chris Perez, Jose Veras and John Axford. Amaro could likely increase interest if he were to show a willingness to sweeten the pot by eating some of Papelbon's salary. Otherwise, Papelbon is a tough sell at two years and $26MM in a market where Joe Nathan commanded just a two-year, $20MM contract.


Relief Rumors: Lefties, Axford, Papelbon, Benoit, Guerrier, Rays

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the top left-handed relievers on the market — J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Eric O'Flaherty and Scott Downs — should begin to start coming off the board in the next 24 to 48 hours. It's already been reported that O'Flaherty is in talks with the Braves about a return to Atlanta. Here's the latest on the market for relievers…

  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that there's a sense that the Nationals will land a left-handed reliever today.
  • The Orioles have had talks with John Axford, tweets Morosi. They're also said to be the current favorites for Grant Balfour.
  • A rival executive estimated that the Phillies would have to eat about 40 to 50 percent of Jonathan Papelbon's remaining salary to trade him, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Papelbon is owed $13MM in each of the next two seasons and has a vesting option for a fifth year.
  • The Rockies have had discussions with Joaquin Benoit but are a ways apart in terms of salary, Morosi reports. Talks between the two sides are fading, as Benoit appears likely to seek a more lucrative deal elsewhere (Twitter links).
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted yesterday that when the dust settles from the Winter Meetings, Matt Guerrier's name could be a of interest to the Indians.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that even after re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo and acquiring Heath Bell, the Rays are still looking to improve their bullpen. One option could be injured lefty Jordan Norberto, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season.


Phillies Notes: Brown, Papelbon, Lee, Hamels

The Phillies have been involved in a handful of rumors this week in Orlando, as reports surfaced suggesting that the team is open to moving Domonic Brown, as well as aces Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. However, it sounds like the price tags on any of those players would be extremely high, reducing the likelihood of a deal. Here's the latest on the Phillies:

  • One club told Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that the possibility of attaching Brown to Jonathan Papelbon in a trade is in play for the Phillies. In that scenario, Philadephia would use the savings to pursue starting pitching help.
  • Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly spoke to a few people who have "knowledge of the inner workings" of the team, and received mixed reactions on whether the Phillies would really move Lee or Hamels. One source called the rumors a "smokescreen" while another suggested the club might trade Lee, but not Hamels.
  • For his part, GM Ruben Amaro called the Lee and Hamels rumors "silly," according to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News.
  • Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com wonders if the Angels' trade of Mark Trumbo might provide a blueprint for the Phillies and Brown, considering both players are corner outfielders with big bats and limited defensive value.
  • The Phillies are satisfied with their offense and aren't looking to make significant additions, but David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News notes that everything will have to break right for it to be an impact lineup.

East Notes: Mets, Burnett, Phillies, Benoit

The Mets' offseason will be a disappointment if the Curtis Granderson acquisition is the only big move, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes. "If this really is it — after all the buildup asking for patience to let the money of Johan Santana and Jason Bay go away — then this will be a breach with the fan base," Sherman says. "Heading toward another $85 million-ish payroll is — quite frankly — not honoring the commitment. It is being the San Diego Mets." Here are more notes from around the East divisions.

  • A.J. Burnett still hasn't decided whether or not to pitch in 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Burnett has previously said he intends to pitch for the Pirates or retire, but Heyman introduces a new possibility — that Burnett could pitch for the Orioles instead. Burnett resides in Maryland.
  • GM Ruben Amaro says the Phillies would eat salary in a trade that improved the team, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Salisbury notes that the Phillies would like to trade Jonathan Papelbon, who will make $13MM in both 2014 and 2015 and has a $13MM vesting option in 2016.
  • Despite the signing of Nate McLouth, the Nationals have no plans to deal Denard Span, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Span will continue to be their center fielder and leadoff hitter.
  • The Yankees have had "lots of internal discussions" about free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports (via Twitter). The Yankees would like to add two bullpen arms.

Quick Hits: Astros, Papelbon, Happ, Betancourt

As we wind up one of the busiest weeks in the history of baseball transactions, here are a few more notes as we head into the weekend…

  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is happy to have acquired Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman before the Winter Meetings, but Luhnow tells reporters (including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) that his club has more on its to-do list.  “To have them both done before the Winter Meetings is a bonus," Luhnow said.  "So now that we can focus on the bullpen and focus on potentially another position player somewhere….We may not be done with starting pitching either.  We’re still actively talking to some other folks.”
  • With the Phillies reportedly shopping closer Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the team will have a tough time given Papelbon's large salary, signs of decline and his possible attitude issues.
  • J.A. Happ could be a trade chip for the Blue Jays if the team needed to free up some payroll space, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith writes.  Happ is set to earn $5.2MM in 2014 with a $6.7MM team option for 2015.  The southpaw was limited to 18 starts in 2013 due to head injuries suffered when he was hit in the head with a line drive, as well as a knee injury also stemming from the incident.
  • Also from Nicholson-Smith, nothing is imminent with Yuniesky Betancourt, though a number of teams are still interested in the veteran as infield depth.  The Marlins were linked to Betancourt last month.
  • Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena has a good glove at shortstop, is lacking at the plate and is overall not going to provide the impact of recent Cuban signings, a scout tells MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.  "This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop," the scout said.  Arruebarruena will showcase his skills for teams this weekend, and the Mets have been identified as one of the attending clubs.

Phillies Notes: Howard, Amaro, Papelbon, Rollins

It's been a rough season for the Phillies, with injuries to many of their top players weighing down the team's record prior to the firing of longtime manager Charlie Manuel. We know they'll be looking for both bullpen help and catching help this offseason to try to right the ship, but here's the latest on the Phils in the meantime…

  • Interim manager Ryne Sandberg says that it would be "counterproductive" for Ryan Howard to return this season, writes Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sandberg told reporters that he doesn't feel playing 10-15 games when he's not at full health would do Howard much good, and instead he needs to focus on being as fit and healthy as he possibly can in 2014. Sandberg still believes that Howard can be a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat if he returns to full health.
  • Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly conducted a Q&A with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., in which Amaro said that while the bullseye may be on him after Manuel's dismissal, he's not currently feeling any heat from ownership: "David Montgomery has been very supportive. David and the ownership group — I know they’re disappointed, but they’re supportive."
  • Amaro also said that Jonathan Papelbon's presence at the back of his bullpen is "crucial" to winning games, and he thinks Papelbon will be part of a Phillies contender in 2014. Amaro added that he's heard good feedback about Papelbon's work with the team's young relievers, though he did stop short of firmly calling Papelbon a positive clubhouse force when asked by Salisbury.
  • "You'd have to ask Jimmy," Amaro replied when Salisbury asked if shortstop Jimmy Rollins would benefit from a change of scenery. Rollins has a no-trade clause that he's not interested in waiving anyhow, but he's been questioned for lapses in hustle recently. Amaro didn't sound interested in the thought of trying to move Rollins, stating: "Jimmy is our shortstop. We signed him for a reason."
  • Amaro also told Salisbury that in addition to signing solid relievers, the team needs to do a better job of adding good depth pieces to the bullpen. As Amaro notes, Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo had strong track records, but injuries to Adams and a suspension for Bastardo have exposed a lack of depth.

Phillies Notes: Manuel, Bullpen, Papelbon

Earlier today, the Phillies fired longtime manager Charlie Manuel and promoted third base coach and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to interim manager. Manuel has exactly 1,000 wins in his storied career and is beloved by the players he has guided. He led the Phillies to five straight division titles and captured a World Series championship in 2008. Here's more on Manuel and the rest of the Phils for some Friday reading…

  • ESPN's Jayson Stark breaks down the behind-the-scenes details that led up to Manuel's firing, though Stark notes that that Phillies went out of their way to not use the word "fired" despite the fact that Manuel himself said he didn't quit or resign as manager.
  • At today's press conference, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. revealed that the Phillies have asked Manuel to remain with the organization in a different role, but Manuel told reporters, including Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, that he needs to take some time away from the club to decide if he wants to remain with the Phils in a different capacity (Twitter link).
  • Former Phillie and current Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth spoke with Manuel earlier this season, and Manuel guaranteed that he would be managing somewhere in 2014, Werth told reporters (including Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com). Werth did note that time could impact that thinking. Werth also called Manuel the best manager he's ever had (via Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington on Twitter).
  • In addition to catchers, the bullpen will be a prime area of focus this offseason, Amaro told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Amaro feels that the Phillies have been unfortunate to get some bad years from good relievers in recent years, pointing to Chad Qualls as an example of someone who excelled before and after his time with Philadelphia.
  • Asked by Zolecki about Jonathan Papelbon's contract, Amaro said he would make the signing again: "Oh, yeah, I think so," Amaro said. "The choices that we had out there with the people that were available, I'm happy with the decision. I'm not happy with the way we've played."
  • Scott Miller of CBS Sports questions the Phillies' lack of direction in light of the team's inactivity at the trade deadline and Amaro's inability to give a hard answer as to what the team was looking for in a permanent managerial replacement. The spotlight is now on Amaro, opines Miller, who notes that while Sandberg could help the club, its real problem is that is simply needs better players.

Stark On Phillies, Kemp, Rzepczynski

The latest from ESPN's Jayson Stark

  • Phillies third baseman Michael Young is open to a deal to just about any contender.  Stark sees the Yankees as the best fit, with the Orioles still interested.  Talking to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki about waiving his no-trade clause, Young said, "I don't know. The first thing I want to do is talk to the Phillies about that."
  • The Phillies have shown very little inclination to move catcher Carlos Ruiz, surprisingly.  And while they'd like to trade closer Jonathan Papelbon, their unwillingness to assume some of his contract is likely to prevent a deal.  Papelbon is owed at least $30MM through 2015.
  • The Phils have quietly been asking potentially interested teams about shortstop Jimmy Rollins, which would be a long shot even if Rollins wasn't likely to block a deal.
  • It's just speculation, but Stark says some people have wondered if the Dodgers should be open to trading center fielder Matt Kemp.
  • Cardinals lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski is a candidate to be traded.
  • Stark suggests the Indians' Carlos Carrasco could be a name to file away for the Rockies, with the Tribe interested in Colorado reliever Josh Outman.

Bullpen Notes: Papelbon, Nathan, Tigers, Padres

Closer Jonathan Papelbon is dissatisfied with the Phillies' current direction, MLB.com's Todd Zalecki reports. In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Philadelphia has fallen to seven games below .500, and that's not what Papelbon anticipated when he signed with the Phils. "I definitely didn't come here for this," he says. He also doesn't sound optimistic when asked about the Phillies' future. "Oh man," he says. "We could be here all day."

Papelbon is of the opinion that the Phillies need to undergo an overhaul, similar to that of his former team, the Red Sox (whose overhaul, ironically, included losing Papelbon to free agency). He says he does not want to be traded, but adds that he does not want to stay in Philadelphia if his team continues on the same path.