The 33-year-old reliever has been one of the best closers in the game over the past nine seasons. With 286 saves, he ranks fourth among active players in that catagory. He has a career 2.41 ERA over 561 innings. Since signing his current four-year/$50 million deal with the Phillies, Papelbon has shown very few signs of decline. He pitched a career high 70 innings in 2012, leading the National League in games finished and he has posted a 2.67 ERA over 131 2/3 innings in Philadelphia. His fastball velocity did slip in 2013, however, dropping from an average of 93.8 mph the previous season to 92 mph. His strikeouts also fell, but he still maintained a solid 2.92 ERA.
For Philadelphia, the decision to shop Papelbon is probably more related to their need to free up cash and add talent than his performance. The team still owes him $26 million over the next two seasons and he could earn another $13 million through a vesting option for 2016. The Phillies had approximately $104 million dollars on their books before re-signing catcher Carlos Ruiz and adding Marlon Byrd. They will see their costs for a number of players go up through arbitration and the team might be stretched thin financially
The Phillies finished the 2013 season in fourth place in the NL East with a record of 73-89 and they are hoping to upgrade several positions this winter. It is also possible that they are looking to Papelbon to help them address needs, either through a deal or by giving them money to spend elsewhere.
Regardless of the reason for this deal, the Phillies will encounter some restrictions to the possible market. Papelbon has a no-trade agreement that allows him to stipulate twelve teams that he can be traded to, according to Rosenthal.
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