Last week, Jonathan Papelbon signed a four-year, $50 million deal (with the potential to earn another $10 million on a vested option, as well) with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Let me first say that this was needed, for both the Red Sox and for Papelbon.
The Red Sox needed to do this because:
- Papelbon, as effective as he had been, would at times kill the team in important games (this includes the final game of this season, which partially helped the Rays reach the playoffs).
- Papelbon is expensive. He made $12 million in 2011, and with the career the year he had, was going to ask something around that mark (which he did, and succeeded). The Red Sox wanted to resign Ortiz to a new contract. In addition, there’s a need for a right fielder (unless they plan on using Josh Reddick), as well as a new starting pitcher, while Lackey is recovering from Tommy John surgery and Dice-K still an uncertainty and entering the final year of his contract. Clearing Papelbon means they have a better opportunity in getting decent players.
- The Red Sox already have a potential closer. I’m talking about Daniel Bard, the team’s primary setup man. Though 2011 was not his best year statistically speaking, he did set a club record with 21 scoreless appearances. Though still rather young (he’s 26), I believe he does have what it takes to be a successful closer. And should he not be successful or if they want to keep him at the setup role, they do have Bobby Jenks to use, as well. Yes, Jenks is iffy, as he was on the DL three times and also suffered from a pulmonary embolism (a blockage of the main artery of the lung) However, he has proven, as a member of the White Sox, that he can close games.
Papelbon needed to do this because:
- Money. With the Red Sox in need of signing players, Papelbon was not going to get the same kind of contract that he got with the Phillies.
- Winning. Papelbon said himself that he signed with the Phillies because he wants to add more World Series rings to his collection. Well, playing with the Phillies is certainly going to do that. Though they lost in the NLDS to the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals, the team still won 102 games in the somewhat-weak NL East. Closing from one elite team to another should (key word there, SHOULD) mean that his numbers should remain consistent; perhaps even better…
- Turmoil in Boston. Papelbon says that it has not been a factor for him leaving, but let’s be honest. The team is in a bit of disarray right now. They lost both GM Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona in one fell swoop. Key Red Sox players have been targeted for eating chicken, drinking beer, and playing video games in the clubhouse. Ortiz has yet to be resigned. If you were Papelbon, would YOU want to stick around?
But here’s my problem with this signing: Why did the PHILLIES sign Jonathan Papelbon?
I’m not saying Papelbon isn’t talented. He is, he wouldn’t have been the closer with the Sox for so long if he wasn’t. Though at times, erratic, he’s made several save records both for the Sox and in baseball in general. In facts, he owns the Sox’s career record in saves. He reached 200 saves faster than Mariano Rivera did. He’s a 4-time All-Star. That’s not my problem.
No, my problem with this signing is that the Phillies already had a guy they could have resigned instead of Papelbon: Ryan Madson. Now granted, 2011 was Madson’s first full year as a closer, overtaking Brad Lidge.
But here’s the thing: Madson is cheaper… and would probably be just as effective.
There were already plans to sign Madson to a four-year, $44 million deal, and was nearly done before Papelbon came to town. So why didn’t it get done? Was Madson not good? Going 32-for-34 in saves with a 2.32 ERA in 62 appearances not enough?
Again, not knocking Papelbon at all here. But if I were Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., I honestly would have stuck with resigning Madson to a new deal. Madson’s contract is less (even more so if you count Papelbon’s potential option), which in turn, would have cleared up space with the team and allow for more financial flexbility to get other signings.
Now with Raul Ibanez ($12 million in 2011) and Roy Oswalt ($16 million in 2011, 2012 club option worth another $16 million) gone, they do have room. But the question is how much?
This offseason, they have to deal with resigning popular shortstop Jimmy Rollins, a player in which both he and the team want to form a new deal (but for how much remains to be determined), along with outfielder Hunter Pence’s arbitration status.
Then, there’s next year: pitchers Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, and center fielder Shane Victorino all enter free agency. There’s also options on third baseman Placido Polanco, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and reliever Jose Contreas.
That’s my problem with this signing. Though their payroll has gone up in recent years, there has to be some sort of self-cap that this team has in terms of spending each year. And with the signing of Papelbon now, how much does that affect that cap not only for this offseason, but beyond?