Philadelphia Phillies Rumors: Talk of Unloading Jonathan Papelbon Setting the Stage for Later

By Mike Gibson
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Usually no means no, but that is not the answer the Philadelphia Phillies are accepting these days when the subject is closer Jonathan Papelbon.

According to people covering the winter meetings, the team is trying to “sell” Papelbon to any and all suitors — except that there are no suitors. The team even tried to peddle Papelbon off to the Cleveland Indians with the promise of paying some of Papelbon’s bloated salary, but even then the Indians said thanks but no thanks.

There may be some method to the Phils’ perceived madness in this case, though. Sending the word out that Papelbon is available could be just a flare to alert people that Papelbon could be available at next year’s mid-season trading deadline. That’s because Papelbon’s attractiveness is at an all-time low, but as anyone who follows baseball knows, closers can be cold one year and hot the next.

After being cold this year, the Phillies are hoping Papelbon gets just hot enough to unload the final year of a three-year, $50 million contract. After being locked into contracts with their “Holy Trinity” of “oldheads” in Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, the team is looking to get young any way they can and they do not want to extend Papelbon at any cost. Papelbon is owed $26 million over the next two seasons, and the alarm bells went off when his strikeout ratio and velocity (92 mph) went down to career-lows in 2013. Without a significant diagnosed injury, that usually means the beginning of the end for closers.

So, like the extensions to Howard, Utley and Rollins, the Phillies are relying on a significant amount of faith if their strategy is hoping Papelbon returns to 2012 form, but hope and faith may be the only strategy they have now.

Mike Gibson, an Associated Press Sports Editors’ Association and Keystone Press Association award-winner for Best Sports Story and Best Sports Feature, is a Phillies writer for Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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