The quickly souring four-year $50 million deal the Phillies gave Jonathan Papelbon two years ago, and the Orioles’ recent fiasco with Grant Balfour may make the two teams unexpected trade partners. MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Phillies and Orioles have discussed a trade involving closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Kubatko adds that the Phillies would have to eat “a lot” of Papelbon’s remaining $26 million over the next two seasons. Papelbon also has an option for 2016 worth $13 million which vests if he finishes 55 games in 2015 alone, or combines to finish 100 games in 2014 and ’15, so it could be $39 million if Papelbon stays healthy and productive.
Since becoming a Phillie after the 2011 season, Papelbon has posted a 2.67 ERA and saved 67 games, striking out 149 and unintentionally walking 27 in 131.2 innings of work. However, there are warning signs that should concern any team looking to acquire the 33-year-old right-hander. According to FanGraphs, Papelbon’s fastball averaged 95 MPH in 2011, but dropped to 93.8 and 92.0 in the following two seasons. As a result, his strikeout rate declined from 34 percent in 2011 and 32 percent in 2012 to a mere 22 percent this past season.
If $15 million over two years is too much for a supposedly injury-prone closer for the Orioles, it’s hard to imagine how much of Papelbon’s contract the Phillies could actually eat to make him in any way more attractive to the O’s than Balfour.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.
Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.