TORONTO - Twenty-four Phillies players bided their time in the Rogers Centre visitors clubhouse Tuesday afternoon until it was time to take the field for the 5:20 stretch. All the while, the uniform-filled locker stall for Jonathan Papelbon remained untouched.
The veteran closer will no longer need his No. 58 Phillies jersey. On Tuesday, the team traded Papelbon and cash to the division-leading Washington Nationals for double-A starting pitcher Nick Pivetta.
"We didn't want to just get rid of him. He had an extraordinary career with us," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in Philadelphia. "The fact of the matter is, he was as good as advertised and maybe better. We just didn't play very well around him. Unfortunately, we didn't have the kind of club that was the reason for him to be here."
Papelbon waived his no-trade clause to facilitate the deal. The 34-year-old righthander was vocal in his desire to leave Philadelphia but steadfast in his desire to close. He will do so for the Nationals, who will move Drew Storen to a set-up role. Storen, 27, had converted 29 of 35 save opportunities this season.
The Phillies had long sought a trade partner for Papelbon, who in November 2011 signed a deal worth a guaranteed $50 million over four years, the richest contract for a relief pitcher in baseball history.
A likely-to-vest $13 million option for next season was a sticking point in trade discussions.
Papelbon and the Nationals negotiated a guaranteed deal for next season - Fox Sports reported it was worth $11 million - instead of the $13 million option for 2016 the closer would have triggered by finishing 14 more games. The Nationals deferred some of the money to 2017, Washington GM Mike Rizzo told reporters.
In Pivetta, the Phillies received a potential mid-to-back-end-of-the-rotation starter. The 6-foot-5 righthander from Canada was the Nationals' 10th-best prospect, according to Baseball America.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2013, he throws a mid-90s fastball, a curveball, and a change-up. The 22-year-old was promoted to double A earlier this month.
Amaro described Pivetta, who will join double-A Reading in New Hampshire on Thursday, as a "strapping, big arm."
"This is all part of the process of what everyone calls the rebuild," Amaro said. "Obviously pitching is an important part of it, starting pitching, hopefully Nick can continue his development and continue his way up the ladder so he can help us in Philadelphia sometime soon."
Papelbon, earlier this month selected to his sixth all-star team, provides the Nationals a veteran, playoff-tested closer behind their stacked starting rotation. Over the last few seasons he overcame diminished velocity to remain as effective as ever.
This season he has converted all 17 of his save attempts and will join his new team Wednesday with a 1.59 ERA.
"He's a winner. He's won his whole career, and he excels in pressure situations and that's his personality," Rizzo said in Miami, where the Nationals opened a series Tuesday night.
"Does it grate on the opposition at times? Yes it does. But he comes with high credentials, high praise from his teammates and guys who've been around him."
Papelbon capped his tenure in Philadelphia with 123 saves in 138 opportunities and as the club's all-time saves leader. His 342 career saves rank 12th all-time. He is 16 shy of the top 10.
Ken Giles succeeded Papelbon as the closer. The hard-throwing 24-year-old righthander recorded his first save of the season Tuesday night in a 3-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
"He's been steady for us the years I've been here. You hate losing a guy like that," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said of Papelbon. "But we feel like Giles is capable of taking over. We'll see."
Cole Hamels will not make another start before the trade deadline Friday, making it very possible that Saturday's no-hitter was indeed the ace lefthander's final start in a Phillies uniform.
The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers remain the most probable landing spots for Hamels, whose next scheduled start was bumped from Thursday to Friday. The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Houston Astros are also said to be in the mix.
"We've had really fluid conversations with a bunch of teams on a variety of players. I don't like to comment on the specifics of some of the discussions," Amaro said.
"But as far as pushing Hamels back, it was the right thing to do. Obviously, he had quite a bit of workload with pitches on his no-no. We just thought it was the right thing to do to push him back until after the trade deadline a day."