It is hard to imagine that even with the downturn in SO/9 or H/9 that it will greatly affect him. Those numbers are after all better than what Jim Johnson accomplished last year. The Phillies willingness to deal Papelbon might also prove to be a boon as well and lower his price more than it might well be on the open market. Additionally, the Phillies have additional pieces that are cost controlled in their system who might be able to be sprung in the right deal.
To play the part of the Phillies, I asked our old Camden Depot hand, now Baseball Prospectus writer extraordinaire, Nick Faleris. Now, let's role play. For the purpose of this exercise, we will assume that Baltimore is not one of the 12 teams that Papelbon's partial no trade clause includes.
Baltimore: [calls] Hey, we heard that you were calling around to find interested trade partners in a deal including Jonathan Papelbon. You might be surprised after we had dealt Jim Johnson, but we think there might be a fit here. We will need some money to help put Papelbon's contract into our payroll, but we think it could work with other pieces.
First, we could construct a deal around money. Papelbon + 12 MM + Cody Asche for Eduardo Rodriuez, Brian Matusz, and Ryan Flaherty. In Rodriguez, you have one of the best left handed pitching prospects in baseball, Matusz is a rotation arm or elite lefty in the pen, and Flaherty has developed into a solid defensive infielder who has big game playoff experience. In addition to Papelbon and money, we'd also be interested in a work in progress like Asche.
Or, second, we could look at a deal without money. Papelbon + Maikel Franco + Cesar Hernandez for Rodriguez, Matusz, and Flaherty. In order to foot the entire bill, we need a better player than Asche and Franco works for us.
How does that work for you?
Philadelphia: Thanks for reaching out to us. We are certainly open to moving Paps under the right circumstances. Let's take the easy stuff first.
We are happy with our current assortment of lefty bullpen arms, so Matusz does not work for us. Tommy Hunter might. We like his flexibility as a rotation arm if we need him in that role. He is making more money than Matusz and has a year less of control, so I'll assume that is an easy swap out for you.
I understand you guys are working with a different payroll -- picking up some salary is expected. We should be able to make 12 MM work, but would like to split that over 2014 and 2015.
Now, the more complicated stuff. I won't say "never" to Franco, but we love the strides he made last summer and view him as a true impact guy in 2015. If we move forward discussing him then I think we are talking about Kevin Gausman instead of Rodriguez, which probably complicates things on your end. We could go larger scope and pull in more pieces, but it probably is easier to make the deal as simple as possible.
1. Paps + $12 MM (split over 2014 and 2015) for Rodriguez and Hunter.
Or, if you want to move some payroll, this deal.
2. Paps + $12 MM (split over 2014 and 2015) + Asche + Hernandez for Rodriguez + Hunter + J.J. Hardy.
Baltimore: Swapping out Matusz for Hunter and splitting the money due over two seasons works for us. Regarding Franco, I think you are right that we are going to be uncomfortable discussing Gausman. I do think we are approaching a deal, so let's keep talking.
In deal one, we think the cost here is greater than several options similar to Papelbon that remain on the market. If we stick with Papelbon and 12 MM, then we are looking at Hunter and an arm more like Parker Bridwell or Oliver Drake.
In deal two, it is difficult for us to deal Hardy as we are sold on his value as a shortstop and he alleviates any concerns we have about Manny Machado's injury. Your proposal seems to value Hardy as a third baseman, but not as a shortstop where we think we could find better value elsewhere. I would hate to bring in a third team that values Hardy as a shortstop because it would likely over complicate this deal. Perhaps someone other than Hardy could be targetted.
Philadelphia: I think we're closer on value than you think. If we can bring Hardy in, I'll worry about an extra bullpen arm through other avenues. How about we drop Hunter and you give us back $3 MM per. Paps + $6 MM split between '14 and '15 + Asche + Hernandez for Rodriguez + Hardy.
Baltimore: We hate giving up Hardy, but we will agree to these terms.
Phillies Receive Eduardo Rodriguez and J.J. Hardy
Orioles Receive Jonathan Papelbon, Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, and 6 MM.
My goal in this deal was to keep the Orioles competitive while also looking forward toward the team's next playoff window whose core will be Kevin Gausman, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey, and Adam Jones. The additions of Cody Asche and Cesar Hernandez will help add potential long term solutions to the second base and third base questions where Ryan Flaherty, Jemile Weeks, and Jonathan Schoop are currently trying to fill those holes. Asche profiles as a solid defensive third baseman and has power that will play. He also has had some time at second base, so that is a possibility if the team wishes to try to develop him there. Hernandez has the skills to play second or play center. He is fast and shows good secondary power. Acquiring these two talents helps ensure that the team will be able to control costs and escape the arbitration hell they have been in these past couple years. Added to all that, Papelbon provides the team with a solid back of the bullpen arm. Jim Johnson is replaced for a pitcher who might be better for the same cost, but 7 MM is saved with J.J. Hardy being replaced by Cody Asche. Sure, this is not risk free, but I am betting on Machado being ready. As insurance though, a cheap SS option like Jamey Carroll might be a prudent pick up.
It is hard to give up Eduardo Rodriguez, but what we are talking about is a guy who has a chance to be a mid or back of the rotation arm. This is very valuable if he can meet those expectations, but his presence on the Orioles is not essential to their success. Four and fifth starters can be found at not too exorbitant a cost. Hardy is a tough release, but he is not a long term member of this team. It is best to move him now for pieces that are relevant to the future of the club.
Philly might be best off with a semi-significant overhaul, but my best guess is that Mr. Amaro & Co. are not going to be content waving a white flag on top of close to $100 MM worth of immovable payroll for 2014. The mindset, then, is similar to the approach I took in the three-way deal I put together for last week's Baseball Prospectus Lineup Card -- try to retool some and improve your long-term cost-controlled core without giving up too much in the near term.
When Jon proposed a move for Papelbon for Rodriguez (plus some stuff), I immediately thought about Hardy. While I'm personally an Asche supporter, my sense is that Philly is truly looking to Franco as the long term solution at third base. That means (1) Asche is expendable long term, and (2) a short term solution at third base is all I need to get to Franco in 2015. Hardy makes a ton of sense, and there's a good chance his overall production will be a noticeable step up from my current option of running Asche out there for a full year. Jon's interest in Asche makes that a nice fit and an easy give for Philly. Hernandez doesn't have a definitive home, so while I'm giving up two young, cheap players I don't think it dramatically impacts my future plans.
By kicking in $4 MM in 2014 to Papelbon, I'm freeing up around $9 MM in each of the next two years, plus clearing the chance Paps vesting 2016 option kicks in on my watch. Hardy takes $7 MM of that in 2014, then I have the full $9 MM to play with for the 2015 offseason. There are a number of capable closers still available I can scoop up, or I can look to internal options to fill the hole Paps leaves at the back of the pen. All in all, I'm probably going to end up saving that $2 MM and handing the closer job over to Bastardo (leaving my other lefty arms for match-ups).
Eduardo Rodriguez is a big get for me, and as much as I'd expect considering Paps' contract. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will cost me $48.5 MM for the next couple years, so the idea of having two solid lefty prospects (Rodriguez and former first rounder Jesse Biddle) hopefully debuting over the next two seasons helps to lower my overall rotation costs and hopefully start to trim some of the payroll fat as the Phillies move forward. Overall, I'm happy with the deal. I think it makes Philly a better team in 2014, as well as in the future, saving a few bucks along the way.