Jonathan Papelbon on tenure with Phillies: 'Three years is plenty'

ByJerry Crasnick ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

CINCINNATI -- Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon turned his All-Star Game moment in the sun into a "get me out of Philadelphia" lobbying session Monday afternoon.

Papelbon, who has consistently made clear his desire to play for a winner, reiterated his hope that the Phillies send him to a contending club before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

The Phillies, who were coming off a 102-60 record and a fifth straight National League East title when Papelbon signed a four-year, $50 million free-agent deal after the 2011 season, have failed to make the playoffs since his arrival and have an MLB-worst 29-62 record at the All-Star break.

"That's not what I signed up for," Papelbon said. "I signed up with a team that won 102 games, and I expected certain things. It didn't happen, and I've tried to ride that ship and keep my mouth shut as much as I can. But it's time for the Phillies to you-know-what or get off the pot.

"I feel like three years is plenty enough time to ride it out, so to speak. If the fans don't understand that, I can't really side with them."

Papelbon, 34, has 14 saves and a 1.60 ERA in 32 outings and is making his sixth career All-Star Game appearance.

But he's being paid $13 million this season -- with a vesting option that could pay him an additional $13 million in 2016 -- and he has become an extravagance for a rebuilding team that doesn't have many late-inning leads to protect.

Papelbon, starter Cole Hamels, first baseman Ryan Howard and outfielder Ben Revere are among several veterans the Phillies would like to unload for younger talent.

The Chicago Cubs were mentioned in Papelbon-related trade speculation in June, and the Toronto Blue Jays recently had a scout monitor Papelbon for 10 straight days.

Amid the rumors, the Phillies are dealing with persistent upheaval in the organization. Ryne Sandberg resigned as the team's manager in late June, and veteran executive Andy MacPhail is serving in an advisory role and will replace Pat Gillick as Phillies president after the season.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is reportedly on the hot seat, and there are indications that part-owner John Middleton is ready to assume a more active role in personnel decisions.

"Here's what a lot of people don't understand," Papelbon said. "If this decision was solely on my shoulders, I would have been gone a long time ago. But I only have so much power. I can only do so much. If another team comes to the Phillies and they have an offer and the Phillies don't like it or accept it, I can't do anything about that. This is not really on me a whole lot. I wish it was. But it's not."

Papelbon said this season has been a constant "grind'' for him because of the difficulty in playing for a team with no chance of making the postseason. He said his principal motivation in speaking out is his desire to play for a winner amid the knowledge that he has only so many years left in the game.

"Here's the deal: Whether I go to Toronto or Chicago or stay in Philly, the only consistent thing that's gonna happen is that I'll prepare to compete," Papelbon said. "If it's still in Philly, I won't be happy. But that's not gonna affect the way I go out and prepare and compete.

"This may sound selfish, and it may not. But if I'm in still with Philly, I'm gonna go out there and play for myself and my own name and my own career and my own stats and all that. I'm not gonna just throw it in. I don't know. Does that sound selfish?"

Papelbon conceded that he has become a lightning rod in Philadelphia by speaking his mind so candidly. He's willing to live with the fallout.

"You know what's funny about Philly?" Papelbon said. "Some of the fans really get me and love me, and some of them don't get me at all and despise me. There's no in-between. But then again, that's kind of the way I am. You're gonna get me or you're not."

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