MID-SEASON TRADE MART, pt. 2: Why not trade prospects for Lee AND Papelbon?


While it seems unlikely that prudent GM Cherington will eschew his disciplined mindset and his long-term plan to create his home-grown “Next Great Red Sox Team”  and suddenly “go all Theo” and take on two huge contracts, just to win it all in 2013, what would a trade for BOTH Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon look like?


Posted: July 8, 7 a.m. ET

Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com has reported that the team’s current 10-game homestand will be crucial in deciding whether the Phillies are buyers or sellers at the deadline.

Ruben Amaro Jr. was quoted saying that these 10 games could decide what he does at the deadline.

"This homestand is very important. We’ve got to play well to stay in contention, clearly. I think we’ll know a lot more about this team after this homestand.These next 10 days are big."

Let’s suppose his boss, the patrician chap with the Euro soccer squad, gets World Series Fever and orders Ben to go after Cliff Lee OR Sox ex-pat Jonathan Papelbon?

Let’s play that out. But, let’s make it more interesting:

"Let’s consider a trade that would net the Sox BOTH Lee and Papelbon!"

Cherington’s GM poker partner Ruben Amaro, Jr., is currently trapped in the Netherworld, where GMs are trying to convince themselves that they might be close to “contending” for a Playoff slot and Amaro is aware that his contract ends after 2015.

If he publicly admits he is a “seller” now, he is telling the rabid Philly Phans that he has already thrown in the towel.  So, just in case the fading Phils go suddenly “en fuego” and leap into contention, before the All-Star game,  he will tread water, whilst blowing sunshine up the collective skirts of the media and Philly fans:

“But again, my job is to make sure that we are contenders every year. I know there are some things that have been written about us blowing things up and that sort of thing. I don’t think blowing things up, so to speak, is the way to go for us. I think that we have to do is try to be intelligent about the decisions that we make for now and for the future. And there are ways to do it and continue to contend and move pieces and move things around. Hopefully, we have the wherewithal [budget] to be able to do it well.”

From his side of the Poker table, Cherington does not want to seem desperate to trade to solve his One Starter/One Closer problem:

”Sometimes there’s a particular hole to fill, and sometimes it’s a matter of trying to find out whether you can upgrade. And I think time will tell. Right now, we’re focused on gathering information, doing a good job scouting, and we’ll look to find opportunities where we can and see what the biggest needs are.”

Now that we have dispensed with the mandatory Happy Horseshit PR statements, we can shuffle and deal.


"#1 Starter: LeeCloser: Papelbon"


"XANDER BOGAERTS…”The X-Man”…”Bogey”…”X-Bog”"


PEN ARMS:  Philadelphia relievers are last in the National League and next-to-last in the majors with a 4.66 bullpen ERA.  In the 7th inning or later, the Phils’ bullpen is the worst in MLB with a 4.49 ERA.  Their 8th inning ERA is 5.31 and in the last 19 games relievers have allowed at least 1 run in the last 3 innings of 15 of those games.

RF:  Phillies right fielders have batted just .224 to rank last in the NL and second-to-last in the majors, ahead of only the Oakland Athletics. Their right fielders’ combined .668 OPS has the Phillies ranked 27th in baseball in that department and second-to-last in the NL.  Delmon Young’s .224 average and .674 OPS are not adequate on a Playoff contender.

SP:  With an ERA of 4.02 this season, the Phillies’ rank 16th among MLB rotations. Cole Hamels [4.58 ERA, 1.30 WHIP] is leading the majors in losses [2-11], but Lee is a possible NL Cy Young Award contender.

C:  Ruiz’s value has taken a nose dive since his breakout season of 2012 (.325 BA, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 32 2B). Since returning from a 25-game suspension for a positive test for amphetamine use, the 34-year-old is hitting .273 with no homers and two doubles in 77 at-bats. $5 million in the last year of his contract.

1b/3b:   Veteran Michael Young is owed around $3 million for the remainder of the season and is headed to a contender [think Dodgers].

2b:  Utley’s knees are shaky and he is getting $15 million in the last year of his contract and is headed to a contender [think Oakland].


A: No.  Cherington has made Bogaerts the keystone of his “Next Great Red Sox Team,” which Ben sees as his magnum opus, his legacy.  And, trading his #1 prospect, the future face of the franchise, would have a negative media spin and, worse–for Ben Cherington–show a lack of discipline.

After dozen several dozen hands of poker, 705 mls of Single Malt Glen Garioch Scotch, and 5 bathroom breaks, 


Cliff Lee: 2.51 ERA, 118.1 IP, 96 H, 18 BB, 105 K in 16 starts.
Cash: $12.5M

Jonathan Papelbon: 2.05 ERA, 30.2 IP, 22 H, 5 BB, 27 K, 15 SVs.

After another several dozen hands of poker, another  705 mls of Single Malt Glen Garioch Scotch, 5 more bathroom breaks, and a plate full of Little Debbie treats, Amaro finally accepts that Cherington will NOT include:

PEN ARMS:  Wilson, Breslow, de la Rosa.

RF:  Jackie Bradley

SP:  Doubront, Webster, Workman, Barnes, Owens

C:  Blake Swihart [Sox #6, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

1b/3b:   Devan Marrero [Sox #10, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013], because he is rated Best Pure Hitter and Best Defensive Player [BA PH, 2013] in the Sox organization.

2b:  Sean Coyle [Sox #24, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013] and the Pedroia clone.

After Cherington offers  a second plate full of Little Debbie treats, Amaro agrees to take these Sox prospects:

PEN ARMS:  Drake Britton, LHP [Sox #11, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

Pat Light, RHP [Sox #21, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

RF:  Brad Brentz [Sox #8, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

SP:  Anthony Ranaudo [Sox #14, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

C:  Christian Vazquez [Sox #19, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

1b/3b:   Travis Shaw [Sox #23, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]

2b:  Garin Cecchini [Sox #7, Baseball American Prospect Handbook, 2013]


The Sox get 2 proven MLB pitchers and the Phillies get 7 prospects.

The Sox take on two huge salaries: Lee [$12.5 Million through 2015, vesting 2016] and Papelbon [$13 Million through 2015, vesting 2016].

The Good News:

For 2013, the Sox will only owe the balance of the two salaries [@$6.25 Million/$6.5 Million].

Thus, Cherington needs to add $12.75 Million to his budget for 2013 and, happily, the Luxury Tax payroll threshold for 2013 is $178 Million and the Sox are currently at about $157 Million; so they could spend $21 Million more and not pay the tax. [Send a plate full of Little Debbie treats down to the Beancounter Office for their party.]

The No-So-Bad News:

With the 2013 season about half over, Cherington needs to find ONLY an extra $12/.75.

He will need to add $25.5 Million in his budget for 2014, 2015, possibly 2016.

With the Luxury Tax payroll threshold for 2013 at $178 Million and the Sox currently at about $157 Million, adding these two full salaries, after 2013, it would put the Sox at $182.5, or $4.5 Million in the red for tax penalty.  [The departure of Ellsbury $9 Million would put Ben back into the black @+$4.5 Million.]

"Q:  Should the Sox do this deal?"

My answer would be yes–with an explanation.

  1. Having Lee anchor the emerging young “Next Great Red Sox Team” rotation would benefit the team and the development of RHP Matt Barnes [#3], RHP Allen Webster [#4], LHP Henry Owens [#5], RHP Brandon Workman [#12], LHP Brian Johnson [#15], et al.
  2. Given his history of durability [232 innings in 2011, 211 innings in 2012, and 181 innings in just half a season in 2013], Lee projects to crank out 200+ innings in 2014 and 2015.  At best he retains his Ace role, but, at worst, he may drop down to the 2, 3, or even 4 slot in the rotation.
  3. Although Papelbon costs half-a-million more than Lee per year, reliable closers [think Bailey, Hanarahan] are worth the money.  At best Pap is back in his groove in Fenway again and serves as the closer for the full three years of his contract.  At worst, he slides back to the set-up role for Uehara or Tazawa for two years and the Sox pass on the 2016 option year.
  4. Thanks to the depth of the Red Sox organization, Ben can afford to peel off 7 prospects and still not surrender some key players on his “Next Great Red Sox Team.”
  5. The Great El Lay Dollar Dump left the Sox flush with funds, so they can afford to take on two 2-year commitments for large salaries for targeted needs at Ace and Closer.

Now that owner John Henry has sent Larry Lucchino back downstairs to his office to resume promoting ticket sales and selling pink trinkets [“Pink Fenway Bricks” Larry?] and has let Ben be a real GM, who has a real plan, the “Next Great Red Sox Team” built from mostly home-grown talent–this trade for Lee and Pap feels right.