In a move that makes very little sense for Milwaukee, the Brewers are reportedly deep in talks to acquire closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Philadelphia has been trying to move Papelbon for quite some time as the club is finally undergoing a long-overdue rebuild and digging its way out from under a mountain of bloated contracts.
There haven’t been many trade partners willing to take on Papelbon’s salary – or perceived attitude and ego – and thus far the trade winds have remained calm.
That all changed last night when Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported that Milwaukee was suddenly in “serious discussions” to acquire Papelbon.
Papelbon, 34, is coming off his best season in five years with 39 saves, a 2.04 ERA, .905 WHIP, and a 183 ERA+
He has seen his strikeout numbers tumble and his velocity has diminished at an alarming rate in recent years, both factors have led many to wonder if his high-level of performance is sustainable.
Papelbon is owed $13 million in 2015 and has a $13 million option for 2016 that vests if he finishes 48 games, a feat he’s accomplished nine years in a row.
Papelbon can reportedly block a trade to the Brewers as part of his limited no-trade clause, but it’s believed that he would waive that if the vesting option for 2016 was guaranteed.
It’s possible that has already been worked out as ESPN’s Jayson Stark is reporting that the “last remaining obstacle” to this deal getting done is the vesting option. The clubs are reportedly trying to hammer out how much of the 2016 option Philadelphia would cover in the swap.
The move seems out of place for a Brewers club that just traded long-time ace Yovani Gallardo to Texas, a move that freed up $9 million.
It was widely-speculated that Milwaukee would use that money to add a frontline starting pitcher via free agency – James Shields’ name was bandied about quite often – or trade for a pitcher and use their new-found financial flexibility to offer an extension.
Papelbon would be an odd-use of resources as the club already has Jonathan Broxton on the roster as a potential in-house closing option and he’s already slated to make $9 million himself in 2015.
If the club wasn’t interested in Broxton taking the reins in the ninth inning, they could reunite with free-agent Francisco Rodriguez who has spent the better part of the last four years with the club.
Rodriguez, 33, was an All-Star for Milwaukee last season when he saved 44 games, with a 3.04 ERA, .985 WHIP, and a 125 ERA+. He’s also likely to cost about half of what Papelbon will, especially factoring in the 2016 option.
In addition to Rodriguez, former closers Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen are both also available as free-agents and looking to restore their value after faltering late last season.
The Brewers could realistically sign two members of this free-agent trio – if not all three – for less money than Papelbon is likely to cost over the next two seasons.
In doing so, they’d save cash and avoid losing any players via trade.
It’s a move that seems to make very little sense for Milwaukee, unless we learn that Philadelphia is eating 95% of the salary – for both years – and the return for Papelbon is some holdover Prince Fielder merchandise and a dozen batting practice balls.
At that point, it seems like an alright deal. Anything less than that and I’ll still be left scratching my head.
More on this deal as it develops.