Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

jonathan papelbon philliesYesterday, after several months of speculation, the Chicago Cubs were connected a little more directly in rumor to very-available Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies, according to Ken Rosenthal, had recently discussed Papelbon in trade with the Blue Jays and the Cubs.

Jim Salisbury at CSN Philadelphia reports that Papelbon, according to sources, would “be very interested in joining the Cubs.” Papelbon can block trades to 17 teams, according to Jayson Stark, so you’ve got to figure that either the Cubs are not on that no-trade list (the tenor of Salisbury’s Cubs mention, as contrasted with the Blue Jays, who are on the no-trade list, suggests the Cubs are not), or that it would not be an issue either way.

What could be an issue, however, is the Phillies’ demands in trade. As we have discussed, Papelbon, 34, is still highly effective, but his contract, which pays him $8 million the rest of the way this year, and then a $13 million vesting option for 2016 (vests essentially if he remains a closer this year), is steep.

According to Stark, the Phillies have stepped up efforts to move Papelbon recently, and have increasingly been willing to include money to defray not only 2015 salary, but also 2016 salary on the option if it vests. In return, of course, they want a better prospect package in return. To that end, Buster Olney hears what we’ve been hearing for years about the Phillies: their expectations are simply too lofty.

How lofty are Phillies trade demands right now? Well, there’s this Bob Dutton report, indicating that the Mariners asked the Phillies about Ben Revere, but the talks died after the Phillies asked for James Paxton(!) or Taijuan Walker(!!!).

Given the absurdity of that demand – for Ben Revere – Phillies GM Ruben Amaro only moments ago felt he had to take the unusual step of denying that one to Ken Rosenthal, saying that he would do so only when a rumor reached “this level of ridiculousness.”

At least he knows that one is just crazy.

So where, then, do the Phillies’ demands fall on Papelbon? Well, if they eat enough salary, he certainly has more value than Revere, but if that rumor there is false, then the comparison doesn’t really provide us much information.

As I said yesterday:

Given the financial obligations, I doubt the Phillies will get a ton for Papelbon unless they include cash to cover a portion of the 2016 option, if it does vest. If they make him a, say, $6 million reliever next year? With a trading team being on the hook for the remainder of his salary this year, too? Well, then they can probably get a very good, but non-elite prospect, or perhaps a couple good prospects with Rule 5 timeline constraints (i.e., they’re about to get squeezed after this season due to Rule 5 eligibility).

I’ll keep standing by that. Papelbon, whatever you think of any off-the-field stuff, has been consistently fantastic on the mound, and figures to continue to be that, since he’s figured out how to dominate without elite velocity. That’s a guy that has real value. No, I don’t think he nets any of the Cubs’ elite young talent, no matter how much salary the Phillies cover, but I do think the Cubs have a huge host of very good next-tier prospect talent that they will not be able to keep forever.

Fortunately for the Cubs, to the extent they are indeed interested, Papelbon potentially wielding his 17-team no-trade clause to block trades to – or at least require an option guarantee from – listed teams could work in their favor. The Phillies may wind up having limited options, and Papelbon may be able to have some direct influence if he’s really wanting to come to the Cubs.

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