As the Winter Meetings begin to creep ever so closer, the free agent market is already becoming more bare than it was when the offseason began several weeks ago. Which means that the meetings will focus on the trade market, rather than scooping up the last few notable names in free agency. One big name we’ve already seen pop up prior to the meetings is Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Papelbon has two years remaining on his contract, having signed a four-year, $50 million contract back prior to 2012. His contract also carries a vesting option for 2016. Despite the fact that his time in the City of Brotherly Love haven’t brought out his best production, there should be at least a few teams in on him, though several teams, such as the Oakland Athletics, have already filled their closer vacancies this offseason.
One team that could absolutely be in on Papelbon is the New York Yankees. Filling the role left by the great Mariano Rivera is going to be no easy task, but one would imagine that a seasoned veteran like Papelbon would be able to handle it, especially given that his last two stops have been in large markets like Boston and Philadelphia.
Another team that may be in the mix is the Seattle Mariners. They’ve already shown the willingness to spend, so taking on his contract wouldn’t be an issue, especially if the Phillies eat some cash as they’re expected to do. A trade likely would not require the Mariners to give up any of their top prospects that they’d prefer to move to Tampa Bay in a potential David Price deal.
Papelbon’s time with the Phillies haven’t represented his best years, but it’s a smaller sample space than that of his time in Boston. His two years featured 131 appearances, a 2.67 ERA, and 10.2 strikeouts per nine. His strikeout numbers dipped a bit, but just barely, while his walks did as well. He did blow 11 saves, though, seven of them coming in 2013 when he had a career low 61 appearances.
When it comes down to it, moving Jonathan Papelbon will be no easy task for the Phils. He struggled throughout 2013 and has quite a bit of cash remaining on his deal, but with several teams moving to fill their bullpen with more cost effective options, there simply aren’t a lot of potential landing spots. New York may make the most sense, and with the money saved on Robinson Cano, perhaps they’ll be the spot. But the real answer should come to light sometime next week.