Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
CLEARWATER, Fla. _ All the answers were at Bright House Field Wednesday afternoon.
Zero moving expenses would be involved.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon worked a scoreless fourth (two ground balls and a pop up) as the Philadelphia Phillies edged the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2.
Know any teams without an established closer who could use Papelbon?
Or a club with a desire to add an ace starter, so a young stud can move to the bullpen.
Say a team which also spends its springs in Pinellas County.
Say a club like Your Toronto Blue Jays … 21 seasons without an October appearance (longest run in the majors).
And it’s early but the Jays could be making this No. 22 after losing Marcus Stroman for the year due to a torn ACL in his left knee on Tuesday morn.
You thought last year started poorly when lead-off man Jose Reyes pulled a hamstring opening night at Tropicana Field and did not return until 17 games later.
The loss of Stroman, expected to make 30 or more starts, is much worse.
Neither Phillies arm comes from the bargain bin.
Paplebon, the former Boston Red Sox closer, is owed $13 million this year and has a vesting option for the same amount next season. The option vests if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 in 2014-15.
Hamels has $102 million US remaining on his deal ($22.5 million for 2015-18, with a $20 million option for 2019, which includes a $6 million buyout).
Both have no-trade clauses to Toronto, Paplebon to the Jays and 16 others, while Hamels may block trades to all clubs except the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” said Hamels when asked about his list.
The Blue Jays acquired Rickey Henderson in 1993 despite the fact he had a no-trade clause. They gave Henderson a bonus, he was on the next plane and soon had another World Series ring.
Hamels was told the story, smiled and walked away.
The lefty has the hammer.
Paplebon told Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly recently: “Yes, Toronto, interests me — if it interests Ruben. I know some of the guys on their coaching staff. They’re a good team. If Ruben can do a deal with them, I’d be interested.”
Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro is in a similar situation to Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. Both are in the final year of their contracts.
Anthopoulos has to win — or at least contend — to be re-hired. Amaro has to make a good trade for the Phillies are in re-building mode.
Sounds like a match.
Yet the Phillies are not having a Florida Marlins-style fire sale. They are not having attendance problems like say the Tampa Bay Rays or the way the Montreal Expos HAD to move payroll.
They will make a baseball deal.
If the Jays could only add one arm should it be for the rotation where Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada complete for the final two spots behind R. A. Dickey,Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison or the bullpen where they don’t have a closer with more than six career saves?
“You have to win games you are supposed to win,” said a long-time American League executive. “You blow a lead late, it has a lingering affect on the whole team.”
A table of scouts were raving about Jays prospects Miguel Castro, 19, who hit 99 MPH at Sarasota and finished last season at class-A Dunedin as well as Greg Infante, 26, who has hit 97 MPH and was at triple-A Buffalo in 2014.
Castro was an original sign by the Phillies, failed the physical and Jays Latin America scout to Ismael Cruz signed him.
When the Phillies gathered they had two aces to deal: Cliff Lee and Hamels. Now there is one.
Lee has problems with an aching flexor tendon near his left elbow and may be headed to surgery.
Add it all up … $116 million for five years of Hamels, $26 million for two years from Paplebon … $142 million.
That’s not counting the dough that the Phillies would no doubt kick into the pot.
Was Rogers Communications $5.2-billion, 12-year deal with the National Hockey League too much?