Aaron Gleeman

Jonathan Papelbon

Phillies and Brewers moving closer to Jonathan Papelbon trade

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Last night news broke that the Brewers were talking to the Phillies about trading for closer Jonathan Papelbon and now Jayson Stark of ESPN.com says the “last remaining obstacle” for the deal is working out how much money Philadelphia would kick in if Papelbon’s option vests for 2016.

Papelbon is owed $13 million this season and will be owed $13 million for next season if he totals at least 48 games finished. For some context, he had 52 games finished last season and has topped 48 games finished in nine consecutive years.

So basically the two sides are negotiating how much of Papelbon’s salary next season will be paid by each team. And apparently he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause to play in Milwaukee.

It seems a little odd that the Brewers would want to trade for the high-priced Papelbon considering Francisco Rodriguez saved 44 games for them last season with a 3.04 ERA and remains unsigned. Surely they could bring back Rodriguez for a fraction of the cost and without giving up any players.

Joe Nathan: “I don’t want people thinking that I’m done”

Joe Nathan Tigers
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After a decade as an elite closer Joe Nathan was bad enough in his first season in Detroit that Tigers fans booed him of the mound at one point and he responded with a chin-flick gesture that later came with an apology.

Nathan is under contract for $10 million in 2015, but the Tigers have indicated that he’ll be on a much shorter leash in the closer role at age 40.

Nathan told Jason Beck of MLB.com that he understands the criticism and plans to bounce back in a big way this season:

I don’t want people thinking that I’m done. I think coming into not just the spring, but coming into the season, I want to prove to myself and other people I still have something left in the tank.

Part of Nathan’s struggles were due to elbow problems, so the six-time All-Star said he’s been focusing on improving his arm strength this offseason as well as getting more agile. And while it’s not quite Best Shape of His Life stuff, Nathan did say “I’ve gotten stronger than I’ve ever felt.”

We’ll see if it makes a difference in the battle against father time.

Phillies “are showing serious interest” in Chad Billingsley

billingsley getty
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Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that the Phillies “are showing serious interest” in free agent right-hander Chad Billingsley, who’s coming back from a pair of elbow surgeries.

Billingsley hasn’t pitched since April of 2013, but before his elbow gave out he posted a 3.65 ERA in 1,175 career innings and had a sub-4.00 ERA in six of his eight seasons in the majors.

Philadelphia is in full-on rebuilding mode, so taking a flier on the 30-year-old former All-Star makes some sense, particularly if the contract includes a team option for 2016.

White Sox sign Jesse Crain

Jesse Crain
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Jesse Crain hasn’t pitched since mid-2013, when the White Sox traded him to the Rays, and now he’s re-signed with the White Sox on a minor-league deal.

Crain is a huge question mark at this point given his inability to come back from shoulder and biceps surgeries, but it’s a no-risk commitment and prior to the injuries he was fantastic in 2013 with a 0.74 ERA and 46/11 K/BB ratio in 37 innings.

Crain provided zero value to the Rays following the mid-2013 trade and zero value to the Astros after signing a one-year, $3.25 million contract last winter, but at age 33 he’s an interesting reunion flier for the White Sox.

White Sox sign Geovany Soto

geovany soto getty
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Veteran catcher Geovany Soto has agreed to a minor-league deal with the White Sox, according to Bruce Levine of WSCR-670 radio in Chicago.

Soto won the Rookie of the Year for the Cubs in 2008, but has struggled to stay healthy and productive since then. He spent last season with the Rangers and A’s, being limited to just 24 games while hitting .250 with one homer and a .665 OPS.

When healthy Soto has shown 20-homer power and his .770 career OPS is well above average for catchers. At age 32 he could find a fit backing up Tyler Flowers.