UPDATE: Phillies, Jonathan Papelbon agree to four-year, $50 million contract

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UPDATE III: Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that Papelbon is guaranteed $50 million over four years while the vesting option is believed to be easily attainable.

UPDATE II: If you were somehow on the fence about this deal being excessive, this should push you overboard and then some. Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports that Papelbon will also receive a vesting option for a fifth year which would make the total package worth more than $60 million.

UPDATE: Oh boy. Salisbury reports that the deal is for four years and approaches $50 million.

Meanwhile, Jon Heyman of SI.com has confirmed the deal.

2:33 PM: Well, here’s an old fashioned swerve.

According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Phillies and Jonathan Papelbon have reached agreement on a contract, pending a physical.

No word on the contract details yet, but the Phillies were reportedly close to signing Ryan Madson to a four-year, $44 million contract with a club option for a fifth year. You’d have to think it would be something similar, if not more.

Papelbon, who turns 31 later this month, has a 2.33 ERA over seven seasons in the big leagues. He struggled with his command last season, leading to a career-high eight blown saves, but bounced back in a big way in his contract year, posting a 2.94 ERA and 87/10 K/BB ratio over 64 1/3 innings.

Papelbon qualifies as a Type A free agent this winter, so barring changes to the CBA, the Phillies will surrender their first-round pick (No. 31 overall) in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft to Boston.

If Salisbury’s report is true, Papelbon’s deal would be the richest contract ever for a relief pitcher, surpassing the five-year, $47 million deal B.J. Ryan signed with the Blue Jays in November of 2005. Mariano Rivera would still have the highest average annual (AAV) for a relief pitcher, at $15 million.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.

 

There is a Tyler glut in baseball

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It’s a slow news morning — Miguel Montero is gone and everyone else is quiet — so you should go read Tyler Kepner’s latest column over at the New York Times. It’s, appropriately, about Tylers.

There are a lot of them in baseball now, Tyler notes. No Larrys and hardly any Eddies or Bobs. This obviously tracks the prevalence of the name Tyler in the population at large and the declines in Larrys, Eddies and Bobs. It’s the kind of thing I imagine we’ve all noticed from time to time, and it’s fun to do it in baseball. For his part, Kepner tries to make an all-Tyler All-Star team. The results are sort of sad.

There are always one or two Craigs floating around baseball from time to time, but not many more than that. We got a Hall of Famer recently, so that’s pretty nice. There will likely be fewer over time, as Craig — never even a top-30 name in popularity — is now near historic lows. I’m not complaining, though. I never once had to go by “Craig C.” in class to differentiate myself from other Craigs. Our biggest problem is being called Greg. We tend to let it pass. Craigs are used to it by now.