Well, the All Star break is over and now we should start to see a steady stream of trade rumors and, hopefully, plenty of trades in the next two weeks. There appear to be more buyers than sellers in MLB at the moment, but yesterday we go news that the Reds are willing to deal ace Johnny Cueto and starter Mike Leake. Some think that they could listen on closer Aroldis Chapman as well. We also heard yesterday that the Brewers are willing to deal outfielder Carlos Gomez and shortstop Jean Segura. Finally, it appears that the Padres will be sellers in the coming weeks and that starter James Shields, closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Justin Upton will be moved.
So, it appears the next two weeks could be pretty exciting with plenty of big names changing teams. With the Padres putting closer Craig Kimbrel on the trade market, the Phillies are reported to to be closing in on trading closer Jonathan Papelbon. Here is more from ESPN's Buster Olney:
PHI is working through trade discussions with multiple teams re: Hamels, and some execs believe they're pushing to finish a Papelbon deal.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 18, 2015
It makes sense for the Phillies to deal Papelbon now that they are in full rebuild. Actually, it made sense for them to trade him a year ago, especially with the emergence to set up man Ken Giles, who is back to his dominating ways after a rough start to the season.
Papelbon has not hidden the fact that he wants to be traded to a contender where he can continue to close. Despite his reputation for being somewhat of a clubhouse cancer, Papelbon has continued to be one of the better closers in the game this season, appearing in 33 games, saving 14 games in 14 chances, with a 1.82 ERA, while striking out a batter per inning, limiting the free pass and inducing ground balls at a 49% rate.
With so many teams still in the wildcard hunt, the list of teams looking to bolster their bullpen is pretty long. Right now, there are 17 teams in both leagues within 6.5 games of the wild card, so it stands that any of these teams could be in play for Papelbon's services.
The teams that are at the top of that list would include the Blue Jays who are 4 games out of the wildcard, the Astros who lead the wildcard right now, and the Tigers who are 3 games out of the wildcard. All three teams have compelling reasons to deal for Papelbon, as the Astros have not hidden the fact that they want to add to their bullpen, and Papelbon has experience in the playoffs. The Tigers have a need as well as current closer Joakim Soria has not pitched well of late, and despite saving 20 games this season, he has given up 8 home runs in 35.2 innings this season and his FIP is over 5.00 right now.
The Blue Jays have the biggest need for an established closer as they could make the wild card by adding another starter and a closer. Their bullpen has been in flux all season, with no reliever with more than 5 saves, and rookie Roberto Osuna handling the ninth inning duties at the moment.
Olney also reports that the Phillies are talking with several teams about a Cole Hamels deal, and, like Papelbon, the list of teams that could use an ace is quite long right now. CBS Sports Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the Dodgers have been talking to the Phillies about Hamels and have a big need for another starter in their rotation, as they have had a patch work rotation for most of the season with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy out for the season.
I could see the Dodgers offering the Phillies one of Jose De Leon or Grant Holmes, both top 50 prospects, along with catching prospect Austin Barnes and Alex Guerrero for Hamels. I think that would be a pretty good deal for both teams, as De Leon is about a year away, or less, from the big leagues, Barnes is currently catching in AAA, and Guerrero is stuck on the Dodgers bench. With Carl Crawford nearing a return fro the disabled list, Guerrero may see even few at bats at the big league level upon his return. He has an opt out clause in his contract, making him a free agent if he is traded, but he may choose to waive that if he is guaranteed regular playing time. He has made it known that he wants to play every day, so waiving the opt out clause would be a smart decision.