Jonathan Papelbon: Potential Hall of Famer


The Brewers are in talks with the Phillies to acquire Jonathan Papelbon, which makes a lot of sense since the Phillies have no need for Papelbon. The Brewers' closer right now is Jonathan Broxton, and their bullpen could use some depth.

Anyway, the Phillies would likely have to include a large amount of cash in a trade since Papelbon is owed $13 million in 2015 and has a vesting option for another $13 million in 2016 if he finishes 48 games in 2015. Papelbon also has a no-trade clause to 17 teams, although you have to think he'd want to get out of Philadelphia at this point.

Aside from all that, did you realize that Papelbon is building a pretty strong Hall of Fame case? Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating Papelbon for the Hall of Fame; I'm pretty much against all closers not named Mariano Rivera. I'm saying the voters, who have been kind to relievers in recent years, could take a liking to Papelbon's case (not that they actually like Papelbon).

If Bruce Sutter can get elected and Lee Smith can peak at 50 percent of the vote, then Papelbon has some sort of case if he strings together a few more good years. Sutter had just eight good years as a closer and Papelbon -- yes, pitching in a more coddled age for relievers -- has already had nine good seasons (or eight, depending on how you value 2010, when he had a 3.90 ERA).

A more interesting comparison is Trevor Hoffman, who enters the ballot next year and is expected to receive a lot of support and possible first-ballot election. Hoffman retired as the all-time saves leader with 601 (since passed by Rivera) and Papelbon has just 325, so he's way behind Hoffman there ... but he's arguably been the better pitcher.

Papelbon: 35-29, 2.37 ERA, 184 ERA+, 22.0 WAR, 88% save pct.

Hoffman: 61-75, 2.87 ERA, 141 ERA+, 28.0 WAR, 89% save pct.

Their save percentage is about the same, and maybe that's all that matters for a closer, but Papelbon has the lower ERA, much better adjusted ERA and better win-loss record.

Then there's the postseason. Hoffman basically gagged in every big situation he got into: 1996 NLDS, 1998 World Series, 2006 All-Star Game, 2007 tiebreaker game. Meanwhile, Papelbon has a 1.00 career ERA in the postseason, with three runs allowed in 27 innings -- and all three runs came in one game.

To have any chance, Papelbon will have to climb a lot higher on the saves list. He's currently 16th all time, but if he averages 30 saves over the next four seasons, which takes him through age 37, that moves him up to 445 saves and behind only Rivera, Hoffman and Smith. If he gets there and keeps that ERA close to where it is, he'll become a strong Hall of Fame candidate.