With the 2015 MLB Trade Deadline less than two weeks away, trade rumors and speculation will only ramp up from now until the final hour. One rumor circulating is that the Philadelphia Phillies may be close to a deal to move closer Jonathan Papelbon out of town. With Papelbon having a stellar season out of the Phillies bullpen, his services will be better utilized on a contending team. The team that may be close to landing the veteran pitcher is unknown, but might that unknown team be the Chicago Cubs?
In a bit of a role-reversal it is the Phillies that are almost certain to be sellers this season with the Cubs in a potential buying mode. The Cubs are currently owners of the second wild card in the National League and just may be in the market to add pieces at the deadline. Chicago has the finances to be aggressive, as well as a very attractive farm system for the rest of the league to be intrigued with. The question is just how aggressive does Theo Epstein and company want to be this season.
All season long, the Cubs have been a rumored team for a Phillies pitcher. But instead of it being for Cole Hamels, it now may be for the closer Papelbon. A deal between these two teams would make sense as a team trying to reach the postseason can never have enough relief help. A move for Papelbon would enable manager Joe Maddon to give guys like Jason Motte, Pedro Strop, and Hector Rondon extra rest while providing an experienced arm for the ninth inning and ultimate stretch run.
Papelbon is also a Theo Epstein guy, as he was the closer for the 2007 Boston Red Sox who won the World Series. In Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, Papelbon was the guy who got the save in the series clincher, while one Jon Lester earned the victory. During this Cubs’ rebuilding process the last few years, the connections between Chicago and Boston, and Chicago and San Diego have been used often by Epstein and Jed Hoyer going back to their roots to land guys that they know best.
Since June 29th, the Cubs starting rotation has certainly found their groove. In this current stretch, the rotation has posted a better then 7:1 strikeout to walk ratio, holding opponents averages under .190, and have an ERA under 1.50, which is the best in baseball during the time. This recent run just may alter the front office’s decision to go after a big-time starter at the deadline to perhaps more of an insurance arm for the rotation, and more of a big-time arm to help the bullpen.
Through Saturday, Papelbon is 15-15 in save chances for the Phillies with a 1.77 ERA and 36 strikeouts. Like him or not, the six-time All-Star has been one of the few bright spots this season in Philadelphia. His talents would fit in nicely on the North side of Chicago. Papelbon himself said that he would be okay with a move to the new-look Cubs.
Chicago has the resources to land Papelbon if they do choose to make the move. If the Phillies are indeed close to a deal for the closer, are the Cubs in fact the team on the receiving end? If the Cubs are able to land a top-end closer it will certainly put the rest of the league on notice that Chicago is at the buyer’s table ready and willing. It will also act as the first move on the giant chess board that will be the trade deadline this season.