8:58pm: The Blue Jays had a scout in Cincinnati to watch the Phillies’ series against the Reds, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. According to Salisbury, that scout may have also been checking out right-hander Aaron Harang and lefty Cole Hamels. (Salisbury adds that Hamels will not approve a trade to Toronto, however, as has been previously reported.) Salisbury adds that multiple sources have told him that the Blue Jays and Phillies have indeed been discussing Papelbon quite recently.
5:57pm: The Phillies “are ready” to trade Jonathan Papelbon and have had recent discussions with the Cubs and Blue Jays regarding the five-time All-Star, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. However, there’s currently nothing close, and talks between the Phillies and both of those teams are at an impasse, per Rosenthal.
The Phillies are willing to pay a significant portion of Papelbon’s contract if it means receiving better prospects, and since speaking with the Blue Jays last week, they’ve increased their scouting of Toronto’s minor league affiliates. The Blue Jays are on Papelbon’s no-trade list, though Papelbon said months ago that he would have interest in pitching for Toronto. The Jays are currently one game above .500 and just three games back in the AL East, despite the fact that they’ve endured bullpen struggles nearly all season.
As for the Cubs, their front office knows Papelbon well. Both president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer worked for the Red Sox when Papelbon was drafted, and each has a respect for his work ethic despite his somewhat abrasive personality. The Cubs aren’t committed to Hector Rondon as the team’s closer and are trying to add multiple late-inning alternatives, hence their recent signing of Rafael Soriano.
Rosenthal hears that the Phillies prefer to deal with the Blue Jays as opposed to the Cubs. I’d imagine that moving Papelbon to Toronto could require the Phils to eat more cash, as Toronto has more budgetary constraints. They’re said to have between $5MM and $8MM to make in-season additions, though Papelbon is earning $13MM this season, of which $8.3MM remains. It seems unlikely that the Blue Jays would want to place all their eggs in this one basket by spending all of the money they have left on Papelbon’s salary. Additionally, Papelbon’s $13MM vesting option has to be a consideration, as if he were inserted into the ninth inning in Toronto, he’d almost certainly reach the 48 games finished needed to lock in that final year.