As Paul Prims wrote here, the Sox bullpen is in a state of flux: filled with injury, inexperience and inconsistency. What had once been arguably the Red Sox’ biggest strength now looked like the weak link in an already strained chain.
In each of the past two off seasons Ben Cherington has swung a deal for an all-star closer, snagging Andrew Bailey from Oakland in 2011 and Joel Hanrahan from Pittsburgh this past winter. It’s safe to say that neither of these deals has worked out the way Ben envisioned, with Bailey being injured most of last year, and currently on the 15-day DL with a biceps strain, and Hanrahan on the 60-day DL with a torn flexor tendon. At least Bailey had been relatively effective before his injury, a claim we can’t make about Hanrahan’s tenure in Boston.
Unfortunately, one way to solve the bullpen problem is to feed Ben Cherington’s addiction to trading for high-powered closers, and now is the perfect opportunity to bring back Jonathan Papelbon. Pap is currently the Red Sox franchise record holder in saves, sitting at a gaudy 219, some 87 saves ahead of Bob Stanley. For six years, Papelbon nailed down the 9th inning for the Sox, resulting in four straight all-star berths from 2006-2009. Games were all but over when “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” started blaring over the PA.
Some people thought that CincoOcho wasn’t worth the four years and $50 million that the Phillies dished out, and truth be told, he probably wasn’t. But consider that the Sox are now paying $11.14 million for two all-stars who are currently sitting on the bench, only slightly less than Papelbon’s $13 million. With Hanrahan’s seven-and-change million coming off the books after this year, it would be more than feasible for the Sox to take on the Louisiana native’s contract.
The Phillies are mired in a long slump, and unless they turn it around soon, GM Ruben Amaro might be forced to sell off some of the more expensive and/or aging pieces. With a barren farm system, and an increasingly bleak outlook for the season, now is a prime time for the Phils to deal their closer. Luckily for Ben, the Phillies aren’t in a position to demand as much as the Athletics did, and they could even be looking at less than what the Pirates received for Hanrahan. Papelbon’s contract is expensive for a team that could be looking to rebuild, and the Sox are in a position to take his contract, further lessening the Phillies leverage. If Philidelphia continues its decline, and the Sox want to prolong their stay near the top of the AL east, they would be wise to find a way to swing a deal for their own former all-star.