Being traded still on mind of Phillies All-Star Jonathan Papelbon
Named to All-Star squad for the sixth time, Phillies closer expects to be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline.
LOS ANGELES - It was a year ago this week that Jonathan Papelbon basically came out and pleaded to be traded. The disgruntled closer sat by his locker stall in Milwaukee's Miller Park and wondered why anyone would want to remain on a last-place team.
"That's mind-boggling to me," Papelbon said.
So you'd rather be pitching on a contender?
"Of course, man," Papelbon said last July. "What kind of question is that?"
Yesterday, Papelbon was named to the All-Star team for the sixth time in his career and second time since signing a four-year, $50 million contract with the Phillies, the most lucrative contract for a reliever in baseball history. But an opportunity to talk about representing the Phillies at baseball's midsummer classic next week ultimately became a forum for the 34-year-old closer to again express his desire to represent another team. And soon.
The major league baseball trade deadline is July 31. Papelbon said yesterday he expects to be dealt by then.
"I would be surprised [not to be traded]," Papelbon said. "Yeah, that would be a pretty valid answer."
Is it fair to say he'd be disappointed, too?
"Yeah, I'd would say so," Papelbon said.
Papelbon repeatedly said it's on the Phillies front office, which committed to a rebuild this winter, to make a deal happen.
"I don't make these decisions," Papelbon said. "The front office knows where my heart is and where my mind is. And that's to be with a contending ballclub. The ball is in their court, so to speak."
Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause. He can block trades to 17 teams.
But just like last summer, that doesn't expect to be an impediment in getting a deal done. Papelbon has only one demand - he'll go only to a team that plans to use him as a closer.
"I'm going to whoever wants me the most and whoever feels like I can help them the best," Papelbon said. "I think everybody knows where I'm at. I've always been straightforward that I want to go play for a contender, and I'm not going to shy away from it. I feel like that's my right and my prerogative to have that opportunity and, you know, it's in their hands. The ball's in their court. I guess that's kind of it."
Like most of the Phillies veterans, Papelbon isn't easy to trade. He's still owed roughly half of his $13 million salary for the season and he has a vesting clause for 2016 that's almost certain to kick in within the next three months.
Included in Papelbon's record contract is a clause that gives him a fourth consecutive season of $13 million if he finishes either 55 games this season or a total of 100 games in 2014 and 2015. Papelbon finished 52 games in 2014 and already has 28 through the first 84 games of 2015. He needs to finish only 20 more games to have his 2015 salary guaranteed.
"I'm going to let my agents decide that and handle that business," Papelbon said of whether he'd want his new team to guarantee that salary to accept a trade.
But given the likelihood that the clause kicks in anyway - injury is really the only way it wouldn't - the 2016 option is probably a foregone conclusion. So a team that might be looking for an upgrade at closer - the Blue Jays, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers could be options - could opt to trade for a cheaper alternative.
Then again, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said repeatedly that the Phillies would consider taking on salary to expedite a trade. They took on some in both the Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd deals in December.
Maybe the money is much ado about nothing anyway. Papelbon has certainly pitched like a reliever a contending team wouldn't mind having again in 2016, too.
Although save opportunities have been few and far between pitching on baseball's worst team, Papelbon converted all 14 of his save chances entering last night. Only three major league closers have racked up more saves this season without blowing a save: Minnesota's Glen Perkins, Milwaukee's Francisco Rodriguez and the Yankees' Andrew Miller.
"His numbers are deserving," manager Pete Mackanin said of Papelbon, who has often gone a week or longer between save opportunities. "And he's pitched well under the circumstances. You can't deny those numbers."
As for next week's All-Star Game in Cincinnati, Papelpon is glad to go.
"I think the best part about this one is my kids are a little bit older and I'll be able to let them go and do the Fan Fest and have fun with that and let them experience it and let them kind of be able to remember more than the ones when they were just babies," Papelbon said. "So that will be pretty cool for me."
Could it be his last memorable moment in a Phillies uniform, too?
"You know what? Honestly I don't know what to think anymore," Papelbon said. "I don't. I don't know how to really answer that. I think it's a great moment for me and my family. I'm going to go out there and represent the Phillies the best I can. Hopefully, do the best I can."