The Pros and Cons of Trading for Jonathan Papelbon

“Anybody need an overpriced closer? No? Why not!?”

That may not be the most effective way to sell closers (or computers for that matter), but that’s basically what the Philadelphia Phillies are broadcasting according to Ken Rosenthal’s latest report.

His piece confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in Major League Baseball that’s been apparent for months now; the Phillies are looking to move their closer, Jonathan Papelbon.


Seems only fitting that the Toronto Blue Jays, who are quite devoid of veteran relievers, would appear to match up with the Philadelphia Phillies in this particular circumstance.

The Phillies want to move Papelbon, the Jays need bullpen help; so what’s the apparent issue? Only the front office folks know for sure, but these may be some of the reasons why talks have stalled; the pros and cons of the Blue Jays trading for Jonathan Papelbon.

Pro: He’s Still Pretty Good

It may be all those years of watching him pitch against the Blue Jays as a member of the Red Sox, but it’s essentially been ingrained in Blue Jays’ fans minds to intrinsically despise Jonathan Papelbon.

He may not be the most likable person in the world, but the fact remains he’s still good at his job. For the better part of 10 seasons, he’s been a fairly consistent reliever. Aside from his 2010 campaign with the Red Sox, Papelbon has remained effective as his respective team’s closer.

His velocity is down to about the 90 MPH mark, but with his control, Jonathan Papelbon doesn’t really need to blow it by anybody anymore. Papelbon is more of a control pitcher who can be relied upon to throw 60-70 innings out of the back of the bullpen.

Con: He’s Expensive

Jonathan Papelbon’s $13 million dollar price tag for the 2015 season has likely been a point of contention between the Phillies and any potential suitors. Papelbon’s salary is far and away the highest among all relievers, but he’s hardly the best reliever out there.

As a comparison, the entire Toronto Blue Jays bullpen comprised of seven relievers is making somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5.6 million dollars total.


The Blue Jays really do need some veteran relief help right now, but what about next year? Carrying a $13 million dollar salary of Papelbon’s could significantly hinder what the club can do next season in the way of making any other additions to the bullpen.

Pro: It Might Only Take Cash to Get it Done

One of the other things which makes acquiring a pitcher like Jonathan Papelbon so attractive is that it may only take cash to get a deal done, rather than the Blue Jays having to part with several prospects to get him.

The more of Papelbon’s salary the Blue Jays would be willing to take on, the less in the way of players they would have to send over to Philadelphia. That’s a very intriguing option for a franchise that may not be ready to part with young talent, but does have some financial flexibility in the way of payroll.

At the very least, fans can seek solace in the fact that it shouldn’t take anything in the name of brand name players like Daniel Norris or Jeff Hoffman to land Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies. Cash going back to Philly could take the place of a player (or two) in return.

In regards to what Papelbon might fetch in return from the Jays, Bryan Hayes spoke with Matt Stairs (current Phillies colour analyst) and he thinks the Phillies would be looking for a right-handed hitter or catcher who’s a year or two away.


Con: That $13 Million Dollar Vesting Option

Papelbon currently has a $13 million dollar vesting option built into his contract which would automatically pick up his option for 2016 if he “finishes” a combined 100 games in 2014-2015. He would only need to finish 26 more games this season to activate that option for the 2016 campaign.

At the Blue Jays’ rate, they haven’t really needed somebody to finish games. Incredibly, the Blue Jays haven’t recorded a save since May 4th because they haven’t resorted to playing a low-scoring brand of baseball as of late.

If that continues, situations might dictate that the Blue Jays wouldn’t even have to use Jonathan Papelbon to fish off games; whether they be in save situations or otherwise. But more than likely, Papelbon will easily hit that 100 game threshold and kick in his 2016 option anyway.

Pro: Toronto Can Make Him Closer

Brett Cecil may currently occupy the Blue Jays’ closer role, but the team hardly has a de facto “closer”. If the opportunity to close games is something that’s extremely important to Jonathan Papelbon, Toronto is one of the few places where he would immediately have that chance.

And because the Blue Jays have a somewhat vacant closer’s role, that could be the negotiation tactic for Papelbon’s’ agent to entice his client to waive his no-trade to come to Toronto. Not only would Papelbon retain his closer status, it would help him cruise towards activating his 2016 vesting option.

Con: That No-Trade Clause

How many times has it come up where a player refused to waive their no-trade clause to come to Toronto? It’s an issue that’s been very prevalent as the Blue Jays have dealt with multiple players who reportedly declined to play for the Blue Jays if given the option.

For whatever reason, Toronto is a tough sell in Major League Baseball. Maybe it’s playing in a different country, maybe it’s the artificial turf, but there seems to be a stigma surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Jays are currently on Jonathan Papelbon’s no-trade list, but reports arose earlier in the year that he’d be willing to waive it to play in Toronto. Compared to playing for the Phillies, the prospect of moving over to the Blue Jays suddenly looks like an attractive option.

Image courtesy of Bleacher Report

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

One thought on “The Pros and Cons of Trading for Jonathan Papelbon

  • June 14, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Trade Dwight Smith Jr for Papelbon fulfills what Matt Stairs wants. Throw in a Tinoco or Jerry G. as part of the deal

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