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Jun 15, 2014

Phillies Rumors: Jonathan Papelbon first to be traded?

By on 12:31 PM

Philadelphia is in the cellar of the National League East once again but are far from out of the playoff race. Only 5.5 games back of the Braves and Nationals who each hold 35-32 records, the 29-37 Phillies hold a trade piece that could get them back to the top of their division.

Jonathan Papelbon

Through 66 games in the 2014 season, Papelbon has only seen the mound 27 times, 16 of which were save opportunities. He boasts one of the best save conversion rates in major league history (301/342 - 88%) and is a perfect candidate to bring in some quality offense for the Phillies roster.
By James_In_To: Wikimedia Commons
As Papelbon ages, his power pitching stats have slowly declined. He has lost 3 MPH on his fastball since 2011, his SO/9 innings and SO/Walk averages are the lowest of his ten-year career, but somehow the former Red Sox World Series champion manages to control opposing hitters (.185 avg). Carrying a WHIP under 1.000 and an ERA of 1.37, Papelbon is by far one of the best closers in the game.

So, which teams are in need of a closer? Two teams immediately stick out and both would land Papelbon back in the American League, one of which, in the AL East.

The Orioles currently have things under control to a point but how long will that last? Between Tommy Hunter and Zach Britton, the two have managed 18 saves in 22 opportunities, Britton accounting for 7 of those saves in only 8 opportunities. Hunter was relieved of his closing duties after his May 13th outting against the Detroit Tigers. Hunter entered the game in the ninth inning with a 1-0 lead and within six batters, exited the game having allowed four earned runs on two long balls, one walk, and only retiring two batters.

Britton has since taken over the closing role but Baltimore would like to see him move back in the setup position, pitching through the seventh and eighth innings. However, with Britton performing at such a high level (0.76 ERA, .925 WHIP), it's not likely the Orioles would give up any offensive talent to receive Papelbon as they're in a race of their own, only 3.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Who is the second team in the American League and in more need of help than the Orioles? The Detroit Tigers as they struggle to separate themselves from the four other teams in the AL Central. Joe Nathan, a career 89.4% save converter, has struggled to retire hitters this year. He is 13 of 17 (76.5%) in save opportunities, has an ERA of 6.85 and the Tigers don't have a solution to the funk Nathan has found himself in. Detroit picked up Joba Chamberlain from free agency in the offseason and hoped he would be their eighth inning man and fill the role of closer should he be needed. In four attempts, Chamberlain has only converted a two saves.

Papelbon to Detroit makes a lot of sense but who Philadelphia would receive in return is up for debate. The Phillies are likely shopping their closer around at the moment but no official word has surfaced as of yet.

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