Monday, October 12, 2009

Stupid Idea: Trade Jonathan Papelbon!

Now that the Red Sox have been eliminated in painful fashion, let the panic trade rumors begin! First up, yesterday's goat Jonathan Papelbon:
"In the wake of Boston's 7-6 loss to Los Angeles in the ALDS, message boards and Twitter feeds everywhere wondered if Papelbon had thrown his last pitch in a Red Sox uniform. Over on Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal suggested that Papelbon would be the one to take the fall for his team's quick playoff exit.

Trading an elite relief pitcher who just saved 38 games with a 1.85 ERA during the regular season would seem to be the type of reaction easily dismissed as a knee-jerk notion made in the heat of of a disappointing loss.

But the truth is that the idea has been quietly discussed by the members of Red Sox Nation for some time now. Papelbon still has two years of arbitration remaining before free agency and he was just awarded $6.25 million in 2009, a record for a pitcher. The thinking in New England circles is that GM Theo Epstein could command a decent trade package for Papelbon in the offseason and Billy Wagner(notes) could fill the 2010 closer's job at a cheaper rate.

Daniel Bard(notes), meanwhile, will get more experience to be Boston's future fireman."
The idea to trade Papelbon this offseason is just flat out dumb. I know Red Sox fans are pissed off about the ALDS and how game 3 ended, but trading Papelbon is not the answer.

Firstly, there is already an absurd number of closers out there on the free agent market. Why would any team pay a premium price for Papelbon when there are so many effective lower cost options available (Kevin Gregg, Jose Valverde, Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano)?

In addition, one of the ideas why the Red Sox would trade Papelbon is because his salary is becoming too exorbitant. Papelbon earned $6.25 million this season and will be due another raise in arbitration this winter. But lemme ask you this: what team out there is willing to pay a closer between $8-$10 million annually?

The Phillies owe Brad Lidge $23 million over the next two seasons. Cross them off the list.

The Mets, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Twins, White Sox, and Cardinals all have closers under contract for 2010. Cross them off the list.

The Cubs will have VERY limited payroll flexibility this winter. A deal for Papelbon might be out of their financial capability.

And does it make any sense for a team with a limited payroll (below $70-$80 million) to spend around $10 million plus prospects on a closer? No. So cross the Orioles, Rays, Padres, Diamondbacks, etc. off the list.

The only team I can think of that would be a logical destination is the Tigers, but do the Red Sox really want to trade Papelbon to one of their AL rivals? In addition, what "impact bat" can the Tigers send the Red Sox way for GM Theo Epstein to justify trading his closer?

Finally, remember just how good Papelbon was this season. Sure this was his down season, but his numbers were still gaudy and impressive: 38 saves with a 1.85 ERA. You can't tell me that the Red Sox would be better off in 2010 without that kind of production in their bullpen. And before yesterday, Papelbon had not allowed a SINGLE RUN in the postseason! This guy is a top-3 closer in baseball and the Red Sox are lucky to have him on board (even with all his antics). Sure Daniel Bard might be an effective closer and Billy Wagner might provide a good option for 2010, but neither of those guys are in Papelbon's league right now.


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Bill said...

I have to disagree a little bit. While I think a lot of the call to trade Papelbon is an overreaction to the egg he laid yesterday, it's not a bad idea to look into it.

There are closers, and then there are CLOSERS. Papelbon is one of three in the latter group (along with Mo and Nathan), and those other guys you mentioned just don't compare at all. If you just want to overpay for a decent relief pitcher, you sign one of those guys; if you want a dominant closer and aren't already the Twins or Yankees, Papelbon's the only option available to you.

I think there are teams that (rightly or wrongly) would give up top talent for a guy like Papelbon. Look what the Mariners got back for JJ Putz--Franklin Gutierrez by himself was worth more than Papelbon was this year. If you can get a top prospect in return for Papelbon, given all the other elite power arms the Sox have in that bullpen, I think you've got to consider it.

Jorge Says No! said...

But Bill, the market is much different this year than last year. Last season, there were four closers on the market: K-Rod, Fuentes, Wood; all of whom are in the upper echelon of closers (salary wise...with the possible exception of Hoffman).

And right now, I just don't know what team would be willing to take on Papelbon's contract AND give up top prospects in return. I don't think it would take a "top prospect" to acquire Papelbon; instead, the Red Sox would be looking for a legit power hitter or a nice package of prospects. Unless the Red Sox are so determined to trade Papelbon, there's no reason for them to accept less.

That's a steep, steep price for a closer in this economy/market.

Bill said...

I guess I don't understand what you're saying. Is it that it's a bad idea for the Red Sox to trade Papelbon, or a bad idea for another team to trade FOR Papelbon?

Closers are always overvalued and overpaid, and I'd tend to agree that it's a bad idea for a team to give up the premium package they'd have to to acquire him. But I think it's worth it for the Sox to answer calls about him (maybe even make a few) just to see if someone's willing to part with that kind of package for him. Obviously they shouldn't trade him just to trade him, but it's worth listening to offers.

Jorge Says No! said...

Bad idea for the Red Sox to trade Papelbon.

bus said...

The Red Sox season is over... better luck for next time..