Things are heating up. FOXSports.com reported Wednesday that the Blue Jays and the Cubs have been speaking to the Phillies about Papelbon. He would be a fit with either team, and he would be happy to go to either place. Of course, Papelbon is owed about $8.5 million this season, plus $13 million next season (assuming his club option automatically vests). That is a sticking point, although the Phils are willing to eat money to get the right prospects in return. I would not be shocked if Philadelphia made a trade in the near future, but how many major deals are completed in June? Not many.
As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline inches closer, contending teams in need of pitching will get antsy to fill voids on their pitching staff. And that is when they might loosen the vice grip on their prospects. Clubs love their prospects, but prospects are just that. Think back to the Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence trades from the past. The Phillies dealt numerous blue-chip prospects, but how many have come back to truly haunt them? Jarred Cosart? Maybe Travis d'Arnaud at some point? Philadelphia has been criticized a lot for holding onto its veteran players, but I don't get the rationale that it should just trade these guys away for the heck of it. Doesn't anybody remember the Lee trade with the Mariners in December 2009?
Are the Phillies concerned about Chase Utley's playing time and his vesting option for next season?
-- Chelsea D., Philadelphia
Utley has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances this year. That is concerning, considering he is hitting just .185 through 56 games. But Utley is on pace to finish the season with 573 plate appearances, so it's not like he is slated to blow past that number. In other words, if Utley can't get going offensively and the Phillies can't find a way to trade him before July 31, the club could go to him at that point and say it needs to give younger players a look. That could mean regular playing time for Cesar Hernandez. But what about a grievance filed by the union? I don't think it would apply here, like it would if the Phils suddenly stopped using Papelbon as a closer. It would be hard to argue that Utley deserves to play every day, especially if he is hitting .185 in late July.
What do you think about the Phillies' Draft?
-- Todd P., Pittsburgh
I like the fact that Philadelphia used 13 of its first 18 picks on hitters. The game has shifted, so while teams certainly need strong pitching to win, it is much harder to find offense. Now, are those hitters going to be any good? Ask me in a few years, because I honestly cannot say. (Nobody can.) But it is encouraging to hear Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz note that the team leaned a little more on analytics this year. That is something this organization need to embrace.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.