The Papelbon Deal

Jonathan Papelbon is in town today for a physical, so expect an official announcement and introductory news conference later today.

Lots and lots of reaction about Papelbon’s four-year, $50 million deal.

My first reaction? Wow. That is a ton of money for a closer, considering the Phillies just finished a three-year, $37.5 million deal with Brad Lidge. Lots of risk there, and knowing the way pitcher’s break down (there is a reason Pat Gillick hated going longer than three years on pitchers) it wouldn’t surprise me to see this deal haunt them down the road (although Papelbon has never had surgery or been on the DL).

My second reaction? The Phillies got the best closer on the market.

Let’s address a few things that popped into my head as I read comments on Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, etc., since Friday:

– I heard no complaints when reports broke early last week the Phillies had reached an agreement on a four-year, $44 million deal with Ryan Madson. The difference between Madson and Papelbon is $6 million over four seasons. That’s nothing. It’s not going to prevent the Phillies from keeping Jimmy Rollins or signing Cole Hamels to a contract extension. It’s $6 million. When it came time last offseason to sign Cliff Lee or not, Phillies president David Montgomery stopped looking at the total committment and started looking at the difference between the two offers, which was roughly $10 million over five seasons. Montgomery stopped thinking $120 million and started thinking $10 million more and we have Cliff Lee. He pulled the trigger. I think the same happened here. Instead of $50 million it was $6 million more and we have the best closer on the market. And Papelbon was the best closer on the market. He has put up better numbers than Madson (and almost everybody not named Mariano Rivera) since the beginning of the 2007 season, and Papelbon was closing the entire time in the American League East. Those are some high leverage situations. Like Roy Halladay, Papelbon should find life a little better in the National League East.

– If you think four years, $44 million or four years, $50 million is too much for any closer, then what was the alternative? Francisco Rodriguez? Joe Nathan, who had Tommy John surgery and turns 37 later this month? Ruben Amaro Jr. thinks he might have future closers in Phillippe Aumont or Justin De Fratus, but they’re not ready right now. And the Phillies are trying to win now. It would be too much of a gamble with Halladay, Lee and Cole Hamels in the rotation. I understand it’s a lot of money for a guy that’s only going to pitch 60-70 innings every season, but those innings are important. Dallas Green once told me the closer might be the most important spot on the roster in today’s game because nothing is more demoralizing than blowing a ninth-inning lead. Sure, the Phillies survived Lidge’s disastrous 2009, but I’m not sure Phillies fans want to take that roller coaster ride again. I’m not sure the players want that again, either.

– One thing I really liked about Madson is that he seemed to be a great mentor to the younger pitchers in the bullpen. I’m not sure if Papelbon can fill that role or not, but it seems to me this bullpen is missing a good veteran presence. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Phillies bring back Lidge on a one-year deal, or somebody else who can help Mike Stutes, Antonio Bastardo, David Herndon, De Fratus, Aumont, Michael Schwimer, Joe Savery, etc., learn on the job.

– As soon as the season ended Amaro said he wanted a veteran closer for the bullpen. He budgeted for this. My only question now is how much left does he have to spend? So far he hasn’t addressed the offense, which he stressed in his postseason news conference. If the Phillies sign Jimmy Rollins and Michael Cuddyer, I think fans will be happy with that. If they only sign one, people naturally are going to wonder if that’s enough.

– I remember my first few years on the beat when fans were ripping the Phillies for not spending or doing enough. Now some are upset because they’re spending too much. Sometimes you have to take a risk. Is there a chance the move backfires? Oh, absolutely. There’s definitely a chance of that. But if I’m Amaro I’m not comfortable having Halladay, Lee and Hamels hand the ball to K-Rod, Nathan or a youngster the next season or two. And the first couple years of this deal are the most important while Halladay, Lee and Hamels are closer to their primes. Keep in mind Hamels becomes a free agent following next season, too. This could be the final season of the Big Three. You don’t want to waste a bunch of their wins with an unreliable closer. tackles the Papelbon signing.

6ABC catches Papelbon at the airport.


can’t help thinking that Rube ‘not wanting to sign a Scott Boras client’ has more to do with this than is being reported.

I think you’re very wrong about there not being any complaints about the supposed Madson 44 million deal. I saw plenty of sceptisism.

Check the comments on this article:

Most seems to be in agreement that a 4 year contract for big money is not in the best interest of the Phillies, be it Madson or Papelbon or any closer.

Thanks for your perspective, Todd. I was on the fence, about the Papelbon signing. Now I’m good with it.

I don’t have a problem with the money. I do have a problem with the length of the deal. Papelbon made $12 mil last year, and I didn’t expect him to take a pay cut.
If they’re going to have Aces and pay them $20 million a year, they can’t have an unreliable closer. Sad as it is, it’s the state of the game. It’s bad enough that often, games are turned over to relief pitchers making the league minimum when their big money starter can’t get anybody out.
I’d have given Madson the money. I think that there is something about him that the Phillies don’t like. Otherwise, he’d be the guy.

I am very sad to see Madson go. He’s been my favorite bullpen pitcher since he came up. It’s been exciting to watch him develop into the caliber player he has become. I’ve watched Pap the past couple seasons, and I like what I’ve seen. I think phans will warm up to him once he starts delivering. Plus, you can’t take his blows at the end of last season. After all, Lee AND Halliday were both chased early for us, and no one’s saying they’re done.
I love and trust what Ruben Amaro Jr envisions for this team. Between Charlie, Pat Gillick, and Ruben, we have built an empire, and they have done it the right way. It’s not really about the money but about bettering the team. Thank GOD they have begun spending the money to do that! I understand we Philly Phans are skeptical by nature, but we need to start standing behind our leaders.
Now, let’s get Jimmy and Cuddyer signed and be done with this!

How much certainty was there that they could have even signed Madson? If they had waited too long because they kept trying to sign Madson to another deal, all the other good closers could have signed with other teams. Then, if Madson signed somewhere else, the Phils would have had no one. Better to get Papelbon now than risk having no one later on.

pountas – So what would be your alternative? Again, I’ve only heard, “It’s too much.” I haven’t heard, “I’d take K-Rod or try De Fratus or Stutes over Madson or Papelbon.”

Hi Todd, nice to visit your own blog :o)

To expound on Todd’s comment about Phils fans complaining they’re spending too much… just remember 10 years ago – for the Phils the big off season signings were Doug Glanville, Terry Adams and Ricky (don’t lose that number) Ledee. Just sayin’. Nouveau riche Phils fans are becoming like Yankee fans… entitled and bratty. They need a little perspective… check out Baseball Reference and look at the history of your team… decades of losing and a front office w/o a commitment to win. Now you have a franchise that will stop at nothing and spend whatever to win… isn’t that what you want???

Well said, Terry. Very well said. I’ve been telling people all weekend to be grateful for what we have here in Philadelphia right now. Nothing is ever good enough for some people. It’s sad really. If people want to complain about the Phillies spending money, than they should just think back to the days of Rico Brogna, Robert Person, Desi Relaford, and Travis Lee among others. Ruben Amaro busts his butt to make this team the best it can be. Why? For the fans of this city!

Well, also for his salary and job security, but yes, by and large I concur.

Excellent points Terry. You pretty much said it all in one post.

It’s clear from Amaro’s statements at the end of the season that they were going to do something like this. They have the money for it and can still sign at least two more significant players without passing the luxury tax threshold. We know they have the money from their money-printing machine known as CBP. May as well spend it on good players instead of lining their pockets. And make no mistake; Papelbon is a good player.

now we need a bat. Or two.

Murph has a great alaysis of the payroll, and the room RAJ has THe short of it is that he projects: 121 MM spent on the 11 players signed; another 2 MM on 4 young arms for the Pen; 25 MM between Hamels and Pence; WOrley and Mayberry you get to 149 MM for 19 players. THis leaves him between 26-31 MM to fill the bench and get a SS and LF (to paltoon with or fill in for Mayberry). Definately do-able.



I can read Japanese, but not Chainese ;o(

Totally what I was thinking on that last post….

With Thome NOT being able to play firstbase every game until Ryan comes back, the Phils will need to set their sights on a firstbaseman that can hit for power and play other positions. Cuddyer fits the need perfectly, but he will be expensive and therefore will HAVE TO play somewhere else when Ryan returns to the team. If Poly is healthy and batting his usual +.300 and goldglove thirdbase, will Cuddyer play left field? What if Junior has proven he can be an everyday palyer and picks up where he left off this season? This could cause a problem.

The alternative would be to go after an aging power-hitting firstbaseman who would then become a pinch hitter upon Ryan’s return… This would be a wasted bench spot, unless that guy could play other positions, like Cuddyer, but someone cheape.r

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