Red Sox Should Not Pay For Jonathan Papelbon


LeBron James did it. Kevin Garnett did it. Why can’t Jonathan Papelbon do it?

Because the Boston Red Sox are not crazy, that’s why. NESN reporter Ricky Doyle documented, yesterday, an interview that’s Rob Bradford had with the former Red Sox closer, now playing with the Philadelphia Phillies. When Papelbon was asked about all of the trade rumors out there and if he would welcome a chance to go home to Boston, where he had so much success, he said, “Of course I would. But you know that’s a lot easier said than done.”

Doyle continued by giving his own opinion of the situation: “Papelbon is correct. The 34-year-old is under contract with the Phillies for $13 million in 2015, and his deal includes a $13 million option for 2016 that will vest with 55 games finished this season or 100 games finished between 2014 and 2015. Papelbon finished 52 games last season.”

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With pitchers, age is not always a determining factor. It’s hard to tell everyone that Papelbon is too old for the Red Sox when they have a 40-year-old Uehara as their current closer, a man who dominated the 2013 postseason at the age of 38. Papelbon blew only 4 out of 43 save opportunities for the Phillies, last season. His velocity has dipped significantly off of his fastball, going from just under 95 mph to 91 mph in six seasons; yet, opposing batters hit only .188 in 2014, compared to .244 the year before.

The issues are more about money and attitude. BoSox Injection had an article, a few weeks ago, relating the details as to why Papelbon’s poor attitude in Boston and in Philly, along with his omnibus of a contract, make him an opportunity cost that the Red Sox don’t need to make.

Between new relief pitcher acquisitions like Anthony Varvaro and prospect talent like Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is hoping that spending more money on another relief pitcher will not be necessary. And, while Uehara has struggled a bit at times this spring, giving up 7 hits and 2 runs in only 3 innings of work, Koji has also struck out 3 hitters and needs a bigger sample size to show whether he has lost a step or not. It doesn’t help that he went for a run and came back with a hamstring injury, as Jason Mastrodonato reported on “Farrell seemed mildly optimistic when he said the Red Sox still expect Uehara to be ready for Opening Day on April 6 in Philadelphia.”

Feb 24, 2015; Ft. Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Henry Owens (76) completes workout drills at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Either way, it will be more than likely that Papelbon’s jersey stays as Philly colors, while another relief pitcher takes the mound for the Red Sox on Opening Day. It is hard for any general manager of any team to seriously consider paying that much money for a player who only sees an inning of action, especially only when the team has the lead. A team interested in making that trade must be completely out of relief options and needs the trade to correct any public relations gone sour with their fans. Some teams have had those issues in the recent past, but not the Red Sox.

Papelbon told Bradford, “I would have loved to stay in Boston my whole career and it would have all been great. I don’t know how I would have done in the [Bobby] Valentine era, but … You know me, I kind of fly by the seat of my pants. I go out there and love to compete no matter where I’m at.” Hopefully, for the sake of Red Sox Nation, Cherington does not do the same kind of ‘flying’ when he makes decisions about the team. Papelbon may or may not have Hall-of-Fame aspirations, but the Red Sox should be thinking about the future, especially since their recent past found them in the American League East basement.

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