When the Philadelphia Phillies signed closer Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract in November of 2011, the deal raised a lot of eyebrows across Major League Baseball. Papelbon had been shaky at times in his final two seasons with the Boston Red Sox and he almost certainly wasn’t going to get better.
Now it appears the Phillies are having a bit of buyer’s remorse, since they are reportedly trying to trade the 33-year-old righty.
Papelbon has two years and $26 million left on his contract that also has a $13 million vesting option for 2016. In 2013 he had a career-low 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings ratio and his velocity was noticeably down for the second consecutive season.
His contract will make it extremely difficult to move Papelbon, and he also has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to stipulate 12 teams to which he would accept a trade. In order to move him Philadelphia would almost certainly have to eat a significant chunk of his contract.
Papelbon made 61 appearances in 2013 and he posted a 5-1 record with 29 saves in 36 opportunities, with a 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. In 61.2 innings he allowed 59 hits, 23 runs (20 earned) and struck out 57 while walking 11. His WAR was a pedestrian 1.5.
For a guy who is being paid like one of the best closers in baseball, he simply didn’t live up to that billing. At times he was fine, but for most of the season he was shaky at best. His seven blown saves were not a career high, as he blew eight in 2010. In two seasons with the Phillies he has blown a total of 11 save chances.
At this point I really don’t see someone willing to take on Papelbon unless Philadelphia pays for most of his contract. He’s a guy who relies on his fastball too much and its diminishing velocity is not a good sign.