The Phillies have completed the long awaited and much speculated trade of flamboyant but efficient closer Jonathan Papelbon, sending him to the division-rival Washington Nationals.
The deal moves Papelbon from the bottom to the top of the National League East into the very position that he believed he was going when he first signed with the Phils following the 2011 season – as the closer of a legitimate World Series contender
Washington already had Drew Storen pitching as an extremely effective closer, so this move was somewhat of a surprise when it began to first surface in recent days.
Storen turns 28 years old in two weeks, and was a Nats 1st round pick at 10th overall in the same 2009 MLB Draft in which they selected pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the 1st overall pick.
So far this season, Storen has 29 Saves and a miniscule 1.73 ERA and 1.018 WHIP. In 36.1 innings he has a 44/9 K:BB ratio and has allowed 28 hits.
Those are first-division closer numbers, and are very similar to those put up so far by Papelbon, when you factor in the difference in the two teams.
Papelbon has also been outstanding with the Phillies. The 34-year old went 17-17 in Save chances while getting limited opportunities closing out games for the worst team in baseball. He has a 1.59 ERA and 0.983 WHIP, allowing 31 hits in 39.2 innings with a 40/8 K:BB ratio.
Papelbon’s option for 2016 was picked up and guaranteed by Washington after being renegotiated from the $13 million that he would have earned under it’s original terms to $11 million. In return, Papelbon received assurances that he would assume the closer role, rather than Storen.
The Nationals are receiving one of the game’s great closers of the last decade. Papelbon is the all-time franchise Saves leader with both the Boston Red Sox and the Phillies.
He has a combined 341 career regular season Saves, with a 2.32 ERA and 1.019 WHIP over 11 seasons. In 667 innings, he has allowed 513 hits, with a 761/167 K:BB ratio over his career.
Papelbon has also gained a reputation, somewhat undeserved, as a troublemaker. However, those on the inside of both teams say that Paps was in fact a good teammate and locker room presence.
Most of his trouble has come due to his inability to filter public commentaries, which when they are actually evaluated for content reveal themselves to be nothing more than brutal honesty.
Looking for someone who won’t wilt in the pennant race and under the glare of October baseball, Papelbon is the perfect fit for the contending Nats.
He has tossed 27 career postseason innings in 18 appearances, allowing just 14 hits with a 23/8 K:BB ratio and 7 Saves, including the final out of the 2007 Red Sox victory to clinch the World Series.
In return, the Phillies will receive 22-year old righthander Nick Pivetta, who entered the season as the 10th-ranked overall prospect by Baseball America in what was considered an above average Nationals minor league system.
So far this season, Pivetta has gone 7-6 with a 3.02 ERA and 1.253 WHIP across two minor league levels in that Washington system. He has a 78/38 K:BB ratio while allowing 89 hits in 101.1 innings pitched.
The big 6’5, 220 lb righthander was selected by the Nats in the 4th round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of New Mexico Junior College. He is a native of Victoria, British Columbia in Canada, and starred for the Canadian Junior National Team in both 2008 and 2009.
Pivetta now joins a stable of young potential starting pitchers in their low-20’s whom the Phils have acquired via trade for their veterans.
Previously both Tom Windle and Zach Eflin arrived from the Dodgers for Jimmy Rollins, and Ben Lively from the Reds for Marlon Byrd.
The Phillies continue to listen to offers for ace lefty Cole Hamels, and it was reported today that they gave interested clubs through Wednesday to submit final offers.
It would appear that they will then sift through those, possibly make a couple of final call backs on Thursday to try and play teams off one another, and then make a final decision on whether any offer on the table is worth pulling the trigger.
Any number of other Phillies players could also move, if the price is right. Those include outfielders Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, Jeff Francoeur, and Darin Ruf, 1st baseman Ryan Howard, DL’d 2nd baseman Chase Utley, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and pitchers such as Jerome Williams and the soon-to-return Aaron Harang.
The likelihood is that most of those players will still be here past the deadline, and that the team will then try to get them all through waivers. At that point, the players would be able to be traded right through the balance of the season.
Trades have finally begun to finalize, fast and furious, in Major League Baseball. The deadline for non-waiver deals comes at 4pm EDT on Friday afternoon. Will Cole Hamels be dealt before that time? Only time will tell.