The Philadelphia Phillies and closer Jonathan Papelbon have a complicated relationship. Even with Papelbon’s improved results this season, it is an awkward situation because of the anchor that is Papelbon’s contract.
Just imagine, then, how much more uncomfortable things might get if the Phillies made the decision to remove Papelbon from the closer’s role. Even with a successful season for their expensive closer in which he has converted 27 out of 30 save opportunities, that might be the ideal path for the Phillies to follow.
At issue is the emergence of young reliever Ken Giles, who can run it up there at 100 MPH and has been successful in a small sample size with Philadelphia’s big league club. In 25 games Giles has a 1.33 ERA and is striking out hitters at a 12.7 K/9 clip. If the Phillies want to convert him to their closer’s role sooner rather than later, that would mean moving Papelbon.
Papelbon, 33, is in the third year of a 4-year, $50 million deal, the largest contract ever given to a big-league reliever. Papelbon is under contract for 2015 and can stick around until 2016, too, if a vesting clause in his deal (55 games finished in 2015 or 100 in 2014 and ’15) is reached.
Buster Olney argues that the Phillies could have the incentive to make this move because said vesting clause:
PHI should install Ken Giles as closer now for 2 reasons:1. He is their future at that spot; 2. They’d steer around Papelbon vesting option.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 16, 2014
Such a move would surely increase the likelihood that Papelbon would be traded. If it happened soon enough they could even look at a trade along the lines of rumors recently that linked them to the Detroit Tigers.
The end of the Jonathan Papelbon era might be near in Philadelphia, with the Ken Giles era at closer set to begin soon.