Pap Expects to Remain Closer

Jonathan PapelbonRuben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg have said unequivocally that Jonathan Papelbon will be their closer in 2015.

It has been a question worth asking. Papelbon needs to finish only 48 games this season to automatically vest a $13 million club option for 2016. That should be a cinch, if he is healthy and continues to close. Papelbon has finished no fewer than 52 games each of the previous eight seasons, and has averaged 56.4 games finished in that span.

The option is noteworthy because the Phillies have had problems trying to trade Papelbon because of his salary. He makes $13 million this season, plus the potential for $13 million more in 2016.

Teams do not want to pay that much for a closer.

Many have wondered if the Phillies could simply demote Papelbon for Ken Giles, who had an impressive rookie season last year. The Phillies could say Giles is getting the job as part of a youth movement, which would scuttle Papelbon’s chances at the option.

That would make him more desirable in a trade.

Papelbon said he would be surprised if the Phillies approached him during the season and said they planned to make Giles the closer.

“I think that they know my stance on closing,” he said. “That’s what I am. I’m a closer. I think if the team decides to go that route, then so be it. Then they go that route. I’ll continue my route with this Major League career that I’ve had and move on.”

But again, the Phillies have said that is not happening as long as Papelbon is performing. He has posted 106 saves (seventh-most in baseball) and a 2.45 ERA (16th out of 137 qualifying relievers) in his three seasons in Philadelphia. If the Phillies suddenly pull him despite pitching well, he very well could file a grievance with the Players’ Union.

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