Report: The Nationals have discussed a Jonathan Papelbon trade with the Phillies

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Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon is a strong possibility to be dealt by next Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline, but there’s a chance he could stay in the National League East.

According to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, the Nationals have had trade talks with the Phillies about Papelbon. Washington is reluctant to take on significant payroll during the season, but the thought is that Philadelphia might be willing to cover a large part of his remaining salary (he’s making $13 million this season) in order to get a deal done. However, there’s one big issue which could keep this thing from happening.

Papelbon’s contract includes a $13 million option for 2016 which vests if he finishes 48 games this year. He’s just 14 away right now and Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com hears that he won’t sign off on a deal unless he’s in a position to get his money.

It’s hard to blame the guy. Of course, the Nationals already have an excellent closer in Drew Storen, who has posted a 1.73 ERA and 44/9 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings this season while going 29-for-31 in save chances. Clearly they are looking for additional late-inning help, but Papelbon might not be the best fit. Perhaps his opinion could change if the option is guaranteed as a condition of the deal and the Phillies pick up most of the tab.

Papelbon, who has been vocal about his desire to be traded to a contender, owns a 1.59 ERA with 40 strikeouts and eight walks over 39 2/3 innings this season. He’s a perfect 17-for-17 in save chances for the last-place Phillies.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.