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.
Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.
Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”
Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.
The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.