The story leaked towards the end of last week. The Brewers were interested in acquiring former elite currently above average high leverage reliever Jonathan Papelbon and his potentially ridiculously enormous contract. I say potentially because he has a vesting option that isn't guaranteed. And that's where talks seems to break down.
It seemed like the trade talks were over, but a recent report from Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki indicates those trade talks are still open and ongoing. The seriousness of those discussions was not elaborated on. However a tweet from Brewers beat reporter Tom Haudricourt suggests the Brewers are more interested in acquiring Jonthan Papelbon than bringing back their former closer Francisco Rodriguez.
There are two main obstacles in getting this trade done. First is that pesky vesting option. If Papelbon finishes 48 games, a mark he's reached in every season of his career, then his 2016 option for $13 million becomes guaranteed. If he were to fall short of that mark, the option becomes void and he becomes a free agent. Enter the second obstacle.
Papelbon has partial trade protection which allows him to block trades to 17 clubs, one of which is the Milwaukee Brewers. He has said he's willing to waive that no-trade clause, but only if the Brewers guarantee his 2016 option. At this point, if the Brewers are still interested in acquiring Papelbon, then they must be willing to guarantee that option. But this is where the disagreements begin.
From the Phillies perspective, they currently aren't guaranteed to have to pay Papelbon any money at all in 2016. They do have a young reliever named Ken Giles who is very good. They could purposely not allow Papelbon to finish 48 games and give some save opportunities to Giles in order to accomplish this. In that way, they could control whether or not Papelbon's option vest.
From the Brewers perspective, that 2016 vesting option is the same thing as a guaranteed option. It will have to be guaranteed in order for this trade to go through. Therefore the Brewers are asking the Phillies to pay part of Papelbon's salary in 2016.
The Phillies are certainly willing to include money in trades. They've done so twice this winter with the Jimmy Rollins trade and the Marlon Byrd trade. The disagreement, and true obstacle, is how much money.
I imagine the Brewers starting point is half Papelbon's contract which would end up being $13 million over 2 years. The Phillies would understandably balk at that since it is possible they would only owe Papelbon a total of $13 million, albeit in one year.
If a trade is going to happen, and I'm right about where the Brewers are starting the discussion, the two sides are going to have to come to some compromise. Therefore whatever deal is struck, I'm guessing the Phillies pay some amount less than $13 million. That would likely leave the Brewers to pay a significant portion of his 2016 salary.
On the flip side, it's hard to say what the Brewers will have to send to the Phillies to get this done. According to Todd Zolecki the Phillies want "something of value" in return, but that's pretty vague. I can almost certainly guarantee you the Brewers will not give up Tyrone Taylor, Orlando Arcia, Clint Coulter, Devin Williams, or any of the players they drafted in 2014. However the likes of Taylor Jungmann or Ty Wagner seem fair game.
I think either of those pitchers would be fair value. Though it seems hard for the Brewers to give up Taylor Jungmann if only because they've depleted their rotation depth rather significantly after the trades of Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada. Jungmann currently sits 6th (or 7th if Tyler Thornburg enters the season healthy) on the depth chart. Typically you can expect a club to use as many as 8 or 9 starters in a normal season.
Pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training on February 20th. I expect regardless of what the Brewers do, we'll learn their decision before that date. That's still over three weeks away which is a long time to have a Papelbon trade rumor hanging over our heads. Hopefully they get this done or walk away sooner than that.