Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it has to be done. Kelly said goodbye to DeSean Jackson for reasons only he knows. The Phillies have to do the same to Jonathan Papelbon.
The Eagles ate $6 million of cap money to jettison Jackson. The Phillies will have to eat more guaranteed money to let Papelbon go, but they really have no choice. Papelbon is scheduled to make $12.5 million this year, $13 million in 2015 and 2016, and has an option year in 2017.
Papelbon’s fastball is gone, and he doesn’t have enough confidence in his splitter to throw it in big spots. He’s just another lower-level major league pitcher who has shown no signs of regaining his previous form anytime soon. The Phillies have a young lefty, Jake Diekman, who throws the ball at nearly 100 mph — about 10 mph faster than what Papelbon throws at — and he could not possibly do worse.
Earlier this week, another controversial icon in Philadelphia was let go, but firing Papelbon would be a lot more accepted in Philadelphia than firing Jackson was. The difference between Jackson and Papelbon is that Jackson proved he can still produce between the white lines, while Papelbon has proven he cannot. When Papelbon blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom half of the ninth inning on Wednesday night vs. the Texas Rangers, it was his eighth BS in his last 24 chances.
By comparison, people who are being paid in the same neighborhood have fared much better. Craig Kimbrel has blown eight of his last 103, Joe Nathan eight of his last 99 and Huston Street — who the Phillies “almost” traded for —blew eight of his last 105 save opportunities.
Papelbon has had plenty of chances. He doesn’t need to get any more. If the Phillies think this is too risky a move to make, it is considerably less risky than what their football neighbors did earlier this week and would be better accepted by Philadelphia fans.