We heard from ESPN's Buster Olney a few weeks ago that the Phillies were "extremely motivated" to move closer Jonathan Papelbon. It sounded like the relationship between the closer and the Phillies had deteriorated...and then Papelbon made some more comments the other day that really bothered some people, including Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times.
Cooney suggests that after Papelbon's most recent comments the team should start to spend its new money from the television deal by simply jettisoning their closer:
...before Ruben Amaro Jr. buys a shiny new toy, he must first pay off the bills that this club has acquired over the past few years. And the biggest debt he should get off his ledger is that of closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Pay someone to take him away like you would with a broken dishwasher. Admit that bringing him here was probably an expensive mistake. Don’t think twice if he goes and has a breakout year in another uniform.
The Phillies indeed would have to spend money to get rid of him. Not only would they have to pay him to play for somebody else, but they would have to spend the money it takes to replace him. But that's OK in Cooney's eyes, since some things are more important than that:
Forget about the baseball end of things with the diminished velocity and declining results in the second half of last season. If Amaro is looking at building a bullpen filled with young guys, is this the person you want as the anchor of that?
The rest of the sport knows that Papelbon’s stuff is fading and his act is old. The Boston media still laughs and chuckles about his antics because he “threw the final pitch in a World Series.”
But he was never a good fit for this locker room and his money was an expensive luxury that this club really couldn’t afford at a time when it was committed to six other very rich contracts (Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay in the rotation; Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup.)
So who replaces Papelbon?
For Cooney, it doesn't matter, really. Cooney suggests Antonio Bastardo or Mike Adams could pitch the last inning. Jake Diekman closed at AAA and has an electric fastball that he brought into form this season. For me personally, I think that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez should be a closer. The Phillies would of course then have to add a starting pitcher.
For the Phillies contend in 2014, a lot of things have to go right. Maybe Cooney is onto something: get rid of a wrong, even if it costs money.