Papelbon shipping off to Philly

The Jonathan Papelbon era in Boston is seemingly coming to an end after reports that Papelbon has agreed to a multi-year deal with the Phillies.  The bizarre start to this story started earlier this week when the Phillies baseball ops staff and incumbent closer Ryan Madson thought that they had agreed on their own multi-year deal only to have the CEO apparently nix the deal.  Some how, some way the fall out included the Phillies signing the former Sox closer to the richest contract given to a closer in MLB history, a deal that gives Papelbon a guaranteed 50 million over 4 years and a vested option that will give him 10 million more for a fifth year.

The two questions now are why did the Red Sox let him go and where do they go from here?  I think that the answer to the first question is simple – they simply didn’t value Papelbon enough to give him the size of a contract that the Phillies gave him.  That’s not to say that the Red Sox didn’t value Papelbon or see him as the best closer in Red Sox history, which is what he was.  It means that they weren’t willing to commit the amount of dollars to a pitcher that only handles a small percentage of innings for the Sox.  That was the organizational philosophy of Theo Epstein and, unsurprisingly, appears to be the philosophy of Ben Cherington.  That is why the Sox don’t hesitate to give large contracts to pitchers like Josh Beckett and John Lackey but were unwilling to go that far for Papelbon.  In the end, I almost see the deal as a lose/lose.  While a huge loss for the Sox, I can’t help but think that the Phillies grossly overpaid for the services of Papelbon.

Before I get to the second question, a few words on Papelbon’s legacy in Boston.  Papelbon was always somewhat of an enigma around here, his off-the-wall personality drawing adoration and scorn alike.  Like any other lightning rod personality, he was more loved when the team was going good and more maligned when the team was struggling, including in September.  A lot of the usual heat he took on was minimized by the beer and chicken saga involving the Sox starters despite Papelbon being the one who ultimately blew the last game of the season.  All that said, Papelbon is the best closer in Red Sox history.  He is the all-time Red Sox saves leader with 219, 87 more than the next guy on the list, Bob Stanley.  He was an all-star closer for the first 5 seasons of his career.  He closed out a World Championship win in 2007.  Unfortunately the last image of Papelbon’s Red Sox career will be him walking off the mound in Baltimore, capping off the most gruesome collapse in team history.  The lasting image however will be that image of him waving Jason Varitek into his waiting arms on that October night in Colorado.

Now back to the other question, what now?  The easy answer is Bard gets promoted and Jenks sets him up if he can come back healthy.  That prospect looked much more enticing before last season in anticipation of Papelbon’s walk than it does now.  The next easy answer would be to sign Ryan Madson to a deal, a bit less than what the Phillies thought they had him signed for.  That may be an option but I believe the Sox still see Bard as the eventual long term answer.  Madson will probably require a 3 year deal with an option for a 4th at least, pretty much identical to the Keith Foulke deal from prior to the 2004 season.  The question is how do the Red Sox really feel about Daniel Bard?  If he is the long term option in their eyes, look for Joe Nathan to get a long look as a possible stopgap to Bard.  Nathan will be 37 next year and was stronger as the season went on, coming off of his Tommy John surgery a few years ago.  If the Sox aren’t quite sure about Bard, then I can see a Foulke-like deal materializing for Madson or perhaps a 2 year/3rd option to Heath Bell, a great friend of Adrian Gonzalez.

Right now the Phillies aggressiveness on the free agent market has put Cherington in a bit of an unenviable position.  The fans are already on edge after the September collapse and they just lost their franchise closer.  The poor guy hasn’t even picked his manager yet.  I’ll say one thing, if Cherington is going to succeed as General Manager of the Boston Red Sox he is going to have to earn his stripes early and often during this offseason.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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