Earlier today, the Nationals signed Casey Janssen, ending all hope for Toronto fans that he would return to the Blue Jays and close for them for another season.
Whether you like it or not, the Blue Jays are considering Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar, and possibly Aaron Loup to be their closer in 2015, with Cecil being the most likely of the three. None of them have any prolonged closing experience, with Cecil and Loup being tied for the most career saves at six. Let me repeat myself. Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup, two possible closers for the Blue Jays in 2015, have a career six saves each.
That is not good security. As a club, the Blue Jays have three possible closers, none of whom who have handled the high pressure situations for more than just a one-time situation.
Sure, every closer in baseball started with zero saves for their career. But the Blue Jays are not in a spot to be "trying out" closers. They want to contend. The acquisitions of Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders and the signing of Russell Martin are prime examples of their yearning for contention.
What's a good baseball team without a good, experienced bullpen? As we saw last season, on a Wins Above Replacement scale (FanGraphs), teams with good bullpens overall (Royals, Yankees, Nationals) could be receiving about five more wins than those with a poor preforming bullpen (Astros, Tigers, Dodgers). It isn't all about having a good closer, in fact, it's more about the depth.
If the Blue Jays did go out and get a closer like Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies, they would not only be receiving a good closer, but they would guarantee Cecil, Loup, and Delabar regular bullpen spots, making their bullpen all the more deep. With their rotation not being the best nor the worst, they may need three or four innings from their bullpen on a daily basis.
Jonathan Papelbon would be a great get for the Blue Jays, if the Phillies are willing to eat the money. Sure, Papelbon, 34, has shown signs of decline, but he was not bad last season by any means. Papelbon saved 39 games, the second-highest mark of his career, in 43 opportunities with a 2.04 ERA (fourth-highest).
Papelbon has lost the velocity strikeout numbers that he once had, but he has turned more into a pitcher than a thrower. He can get hitters to make outs on his other pitches. For example, hitters went just 4-for-42 on his slider last year (.095).
The more money the Blue Jays decide to pay Papelbon, the less they would have to give in return to Philadelphia in terms of prospects. Papelbon is owed $13 million this season with a $13 million vesting option for 2016. If the Blue Jays decide to pay Papelbon $10 million of that $26 million total, they would be getting a solid closer at a good price, while not having to give up the best of prospects.
Adding Papelbon by himself is an upgrade for the Blue Jays, but it would also keep Loup, Delabar, and Cecil in the spots that they have known to be in. Toronto cannot make any of these three pitchers feel uncomfortable. They are important to the success of their bullpen. To keep them comfortable, they need to go out and get a real closer. That is and should be Papelbon.