Friday, November 11, 2011

Papelbon to the Phillies

Last week, rumors began circulating that Papelbon was interviewing with the Phillies.  At the time, it seemed like nothing to worry about.  The Phillies were close to reaching a deal with their own free agent closer, Ryan Madson (2011 ERA: 2.37).  But, when that 4-year, $44 million deal fell apart, the Phillies grabbed Papelbon instead, for 4 years and nearly $50 million.

The Sox had been paying Papelbon $12 million/year, but evidently weren't confident that he would be worth that much on into the future.  And with good reason: star closers often often decline dramatically once they reach their 30's.  Just ask the Twins how Joe Nathan has worked out after the re-signed him for four more years in 2008.  Or, ask the Mets about Billy Wagner.  There just aren't many arms that have the durability of Mariano Rivera's.

It's fair to ask what the Red Sox are going to do with that $12 million per year.  Will they seek out another closer?  Ryan Madson's on the market.  There are also a number of older former closers on the market who might be able to fill in for a year or two.  The 34-year old Brad Lidge, in particular, just had an outstanding year in the bullpen for the Phillies (regular season ERA: 1.40) and would probably welcome the chance to close again.

More likely, the Sox will hand the ball to Bard, who certainly would welcome the opportunity.  Aceves, then, might become his primary setup man, assuming the Sox don't want to make him a starter.  And the Red Sox will go out and spend $12 million on . . . who knows?

In his six-plus years with the Sox, Papelbon pitched 429-1/3 innings and struck out 509 batters, compiling a 2.33 ERA.  His best season was his rookie year, when he posted a 0.92 ERA.  In each of his six full years as a closer, he earned more than 30 saves.  In fact, he was the fastest pitcher in MLB history to reach 200 career saves.  Of course, this is partly due to the fact that the Sox have been an extremely capable team over that entire period.  You can only get saves when your team is ahead in games  But, Papelbon has also been very durable.  As far as I can recall, his only significant injury was in September of 2006.

It's not all been fun and games, though.  While much is made of Papelbon's competitiveness, his ERA against the dreaded Yankees is a mediocre 3.86.  However, he more than made up for it by shutting down Texas (ERA: 0.40) and Anaheim (ERA: 1.16) and Tampa Bay (ERA: 2.01).  2010 was a rough year (ERA: 3.90), and in the last game of 2011 he gave up the run that shut the door on the post-season.

Overall, though, the memories are very good.  As much as his pitching, we'll miss his antics, on and off the field.  If there is a bright side to this news, it that the ninth inning should now start to go a little quicker.

Related posts:
The Awesomeness of the Bard
Bedard and Closers

1 comment:

  1. My first reaction to this was that this is a really risky contract, esp. a one pitch closer with an injury history that will be 34 by the end of the contract. As a GM, i'm not sure I'd want to sign any over-30 reliever to a contract of more than two years.

    Yesterday, a new wrinkle arose: "Papelbon’s contract also includes a $13 million option for 2016 that vests if he has 55 games finished in 2015 or a total of 100 games finished between 2014 and 2015. In other words, if he stays healthy and remains a closer it would become a five-year, $63 million deal."
    I like Paps but I don't blame the Sox for matching this deal one bit.