MILWAUKEE — There were three weeks until the July 31 trade deadline when Ruben Amaro Jr. grabbed a pack of jalapeno sunflower seeds Thursday afternoon and found a spot on the wooden dugout bench. This was a moment for more reality.
Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies' closer, made it clear Wednesday night he would welcome a trade to a contender. "I think that's a no-brainer," Papelbon said. A day later, his boss agreed.
"He never expressed to me that he's been unhappy," Amaro said. "Why wouldn't players want to play on a contending team? It's really rather simple."
Cole Hamels, the team's $144 million ace and a possible — but unlikely — trade chip, sauntered by Amaro in the dugout.
"He wants to play on a winning team," Amaro said, pointing to Hamels. "Why wouldn't he?"
The Phillies general manager said he did not interpret Papelbon's comments as negative toward the organization. They were, in effect, a moment of honesty that is uncommon among professional athletes in Papelbon's position.
Amaro, when asked if he would honor Papelbon's wishes, declined to answer. The closer has not demanded a trade. And Amaro would not say whether teams have expressed interest in Papelbon. The Phillies will have to pay a majority of the $19 million owed to Papelbon in a trade, which is an expected conclusion at this point.
Papelbon has a 1.24 ERA with 22 saves in 24 opportunities.
"He's been outstanding," Amaro said. "Is there anybody better right now. Stuff-wise there might be a guy better, but he's doing his job. He's been phenomenal. He's been outstanding for our kids in the bullpen; I mean he's been really good with them back there. That means a lot."
Have a question? Tweet @magelb for possible use in a future mailbag.