With the Los Angeles Dodgers still figuring out what to do about their closer spot, rumors have swirled around bullpen names ranging from Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit’s Joba Chamberlain — but with Rodriguez now off the table, attention may be shifting eastward to Philadelphia, where malcontent veteran Jonathan Papelbon has made no secret of the fact that he wants to move to a team that can win.
That description does not include the Phillies, who fell hard after winning 102 games in 2011, only to crash out of the postseason in the Division Series stage — and have not posted a winning season since. In fact, in 2013 and 2014, the Phillies recorded identical, and dismal, records of 73-89.
A trade bringing Papelbon to Los Angeles has been deemed “unlikely” by Los Angeles Times baseball writer Dylan Hernandez. But is it really? There may be a scenario to make the deal happen.
The Dodgers need for a closer wasn’t something that new General Manager Andrew Friedman anticipated coming into Spring Training. But then 27-year-old closer Kelsey Jansen, who helped lead the Dodgers to the National League West pennant last year with a career high 44 saves, reported discomfort in his foot while running last week.
A medical check on the Dodger righty’s left foot revealed a growth of some kind on the bone, a growth that required surgery to remove. His recovery will keep Jansen on the disabled list for at least the first two months of the season.
But even though the Dodgers and their reported $266 million payroll — more than $50 million larger than second-place spenders the New York Yankees — face stepped-up competition in the West this season from the San Diego Padres, whose offseason displayed a go-for-it-all approach to the upcoming season, as well as the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, Friedman is reported to feel “no urgency” to fill the closer’s role.
“Right now, the guys we’ve had some trade discussions about, the guys that are freely available, we’re going to continue to try to sift through it and figure out what actually makes sense as opposed to a reactionary move that may look good in the moment,” Friedman told ESPN Los Angeles this week.
While ESPN reported that Friedman may be looking toward Chamberlain as a short-term fill-in for Jansen, a trade for Papelbon may still make more sense, given that there’s no guarantee of Jansen returning to form after two months on the sidelines.
Papelbon has already announced that he would accept a trade to the Toronto Blue Jays, returning him to the AL East, where he would square off on a regular basis with the club that drafted and developed him, and with whom he won a World Series, the Boston Red Sox.
Would a package of catching prospect Austin Barnes and Major League-ready left-handed bat Joc Pederson — filling two of Philadelphia’s needs — be enough to bring Papelbon to Los Angeles? Or would that pair be too much for the Dodgers to give up, balanced against the risk of losing ground in the West as they wait for Jansen to get back on his feet, or at least on his foot.
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