Rumors: Blue Jays asked on Jonathan Papelbon, on no-trade list


With the Philadelphi Phillies in rebuild mode and trying to shed salary any way possible, closer Jonathan Papelbon has become a popular trade target for quite a few clubs in the market for late-inning help. One of those clubs, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, are your Toronto Blue Jays.

Given the need for a closer after the departure of Casey Janssen, Toronto’s interest in Papelbon is more than justified. The Blue Jays obviously like Jonathan Papelbon’s track record, as the 34-year-old has 9-consecutive seasons with 29 or more saves, 4-straight years with a sub-3.00 ERA, and has made 59 or more appearances during his 9 years as a full-time closer. However, the Blue Jays interest in Papelbon at this stage is characterized as “very limited” according to Rosenthal.

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With word that the Brewers and Phillies are in serious talks about moving Papelbon to Milwaukee, that would stand to be fairly true. However, there’s a few considerations that may also be standing in the way, first and foremost that the Blue Jays are on Papelbon’s no-trade list. The cost of getting off that list, according to the following tweet from Rosenthal, could be relatively expensive.

Requiring a team to guarantee a vesting or team option is pretty standard operating procedure when it comes to waiving no-trade clauses. However in Papelbon’s case, it may be asking more than the Blue Jays would be willing to pay. Papelbon is making $13 million in 2015, and the vesting option would take on another $13 million in 2016. With R.A. Dickey facing an option year and Mark Buehrle’s deal up at the end of 2015, that money may be better spent on a starter.

Could Jonathan Papelbon solve Blue Jays closer needs? Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

While the reliever is coming off his best year in a Phillies uniform (2.04 ERA, 2.53 FIP, and 39 saves), there are also some concerns about the right-hander keeping it up.

As has been mentioned extensively, Papelbon has seen a steady decline in velocity over the years. In 2011, his last with the Red Sox and his walk-year, Papelbon posted a career-high average fastball velocity of 94.8 MPH. In the three years since, he has seen that number decline to 93.8. 92.0, and 91.2 respectively. Likewise, his splitter has declined from 89.7 MPH in 2011 to 86.0 in 2014.

That’s lead Papelbon to rely less on his fastball (74.6% in 2011 to 67.7% in 2014) in recent years, and resulted in him mixing in his slider more often (career-high 14.9% in 2014). While it hasn’t impacted his ground-ball rates, Papelbon has seen a significant drop to a 8.55 K/9 rate. Still, that’s fairly respectable in its own right.

This all said, the Blue Jays would remain a long-shot in terms of bringing Jonathan Papelbon to Toronto, even if the deal with the Brewers falls through. On top of the salary relief, the Phillies would undoubtedly want a significant piece or two in return for their closer. Given all the cost rolled up, the Blue Jays would likely be better off pursuing one of the free agent options (Francisco Rodriguez or Rafael Soriano), than sinking additional prospect cost into an aging closer.

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