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Four years and $50 million for Papelbon? Seriously, Philly?

Nov 11, 2011, 3:14 PM EDT

papelbon getty Getty Images

There were many, many potential closers on the market this morning. None had signed yet. None made the sort of money Jonathan Papelbon did last year, have the mileage on their arms that he does and most of them aren’t his age.  Yet, somehow, Ruben Amaro decided that Papelbon needed a four-year, $50 million deal.

You OK with that, Philly fans?  You OK with Papelbon getting one more year and $13 million more than Brad Lidge got on his last deal?

Not to say that Papelbon is bad.  He’s not. Had a really nice bounceback year in 2011.  The real issue here is a four-year deal for a closer of any stripe.  Those are pretty rare and rarely have they ever worked out. Joe Nathan had a decent one at the same age as Papelbon.  As Alex Speier noted in a column the other day, though, 11 closers have been given multi-year deals worth $9 million or more.  With the exception of Mariano Rivera, they just haven’t worked out and most have been fairly disastrous.  And that’s just multi-year deals, not four freaking years.

I’ll grant that Papelbon could be a moderate improvement over Ryan Madson in the near term, but it doesn’t make them markedly better as a team. It certainly doesn’t make them any younger, as this deal takes Papelbon through his age 34 season. It doesn’t help the Phillies bottom line by damn sight, and it’s already pretty heavily-loaded with big salaries owed to aging players.

So the question is why? Why these dollars to this dude?  Why, when there are other holes to fill on this team — offense is a concern, pitching not nearly as much — do the Phillies need to go out and get an expensive Proven Closer?

I’m baffled.

136 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. lukeslice - Nov 11, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    This is priceless. 1) Phillies get exceedingly bloated expectations –> 2) unexpectedly tank –> 3) overspend on free agents which don’t make them much better anyway.

    I mean I gotta give credit to Rubes for their big 3 SPs that will be there for a couple years still, but this seems like a bit of a panic move after relying on Brad “I Suck” Lidge to close out games for a few years. Hilarious! Go Marlins!!!

    • phillies2k8 - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:08 PM

      Go Marlins!! Yeah enjoy having the the hardest working right side of the infield (Read Reyes/Ramirez) in the league. Their work ethic is second to none.

    • schmedley69 - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:08 PM

      It’s gonna be even more hilarious when the Marlins spend huge money and are still playing in front of empty seats in a few years, after the new stadium effect wears off. Baseball just doesn’t work in FLA. Never has, never will.

      • phillies2k8 - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:15 PM

        You can’t argue with the Marlins strategy. Stockpile picks, develop a lot of talent, once they reach arbitration or become too expensive trade for more picks. The only problem is there are no baseball fans in Miami so they can’t sustain anything.

      • lukeslice - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:24 PM

        Yeah well, I’m a Yankee fan, so…you all lose (kinda like us next year cuz of our starting rotation). I just like that everyone here at Marlinsballtalk is so high on them right now!

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:52 PM

      Actually, they only have one year of Hamels left, no? If they lose Cole in any way related to money lost to Papelbon, it’ll be an excrutiating loss.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:18 PM

        It would be inexcusable to lose a Cy Young caliber starting pitcher because money is tight because you signed a closer.

  2. Jonny 5 - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    It’s not my damn money….. And if they want to flirt with exceeding the luxury tax threshold, who am I to moan about it? I think this is a sign that the Phills are about to go all Yankees/ Red Sox with the payroll and have to pay some luxury tax… Why not? I say.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:16 PM

      It is the only way the deal makes the least bit of sense….ignoring the luxury tax.

      • Jonny 5 - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:22 PM

        Yes, if they stick to staying beneath the luxury tax this deal makes no sense when they have other needs. But if they threw that out the window? It’s pretty awesome, and we may have just witnessed the Phillies becoming the Yankees of the NL. Which isn’t a bad thing for us, the fans..

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:58 PM

        Don’t forget, from mine and uyf’s comments above, they look to be in the same spot as last year and the luxury tax threshold increases every year. It’s also peanuts for first time offenders, growing exponentially (i think) if you continually break it a la the Yankees.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:20 PM

        Yeah, that is a good point Church….I was just kind of hoping they would add more depth to the roster seeing as how certain players are perpetually battling through injury. I was hoping to see upgrades from Brian Schneider, Wilson Valdez, and Michael Martinez.

  3. hackerjay - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    I’m not a fan of the deal, but I can kind of see where they are coming from. Papelbon will probably be slightly better then Madson, and the deals they were asking for probably weren’t too different. So if the difference between the two is say $2 million, it probably isn’t going to stop Philly from adding anyone else.

    It’s not like they were going to go into next season without a closer.

  4. gldfngr38 - Nov 11, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    I’m 95% sure Craig made this story up just because he missed the philly commenters so much. Only possible explanation

  5. awriterorsomething - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    I am no fan of Papelbon that is for sure but I am not sure I understand why everyone thinks this is such a hideous signing.

    I love it. It gets him out of the AL East but aside from that, his career numbers are pretty good.

    ERA+ of 197 is second only to Rivera (though Papelbon does not have enough inning to qualify)
    Whip of 1.18 is only a little behind Rivera .998
    HR/9 IP is 0.1 worse than Rivera
    WAR averages 2.7 per year vs Rivera 3.14 per year.

    Simply put Pabelbon is a top closer. He aint Rivera, but who is?

    At 30 years old 12.5 million a year until he is 34…… Overpaid, sure, but a ridiculous signing? I don’t really think so.

    • bigleagues - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      Papelbon isn’t quite Mariano, but he is at least Trevor Hoffman and Bruce Sutter:

      Rk              Player  SV  WAR  WHIP ERA+  SO/9 From   To   Age   G  W  L    IP  ERA
      1       Trevor Hoffman 228 17.4 1.039  152 10.26 1993 1999 25-31 439 36 28 509.0 2.69
      2    Jonathan Papelbon 219 17.1 1.018  197 10.67 2005 2011 24-30 396 23 19 429.1 2.33
      3       Mariano Rivera 215 22.7 1.079  182  8.07 1995 2001 25-31 403 37 23 533.0 2.58
      4         Bruce Sutter 194 21.1 1.077  159  8.13 1976 1982 23-29 418 44 43 677.2 2.50

      Provided by View Play Index Tool UsedGenerated 11/11/2011.

      • bigleagues - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:26 PM

        BTW, that list is comprised of pitchers through the first 7 years of their career, who have a WAR of 17 or greater, WHIP of 1.100 or less, ERA+ of 150 or greater and 8 K/IP or greater.

        That’s all of them . . . all four.

      • awriterorsomething - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:35 PM

        Excellent thanks!

  6. kandh2004 - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    I love you ungrateful red sox fans. No championships is 80+ years this guy get it for ya and not you are talking s@&t on him. If I have learned anything it’s not to make to much of FA signings cause look what happened after we signed Lee. Let’s play ball first and see what happens. Craig can’t you find a job with an Atlanta paper or something god your the worst

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:15 PM

      Umm if Jonathan Papelbon is a pseudonym for Keith Foulke, than yeah he got them their first championship in 80+ years.

    • bigleagues - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:21 PM

      Keith Foulke was the Red Sox Closer in 2004.

      Papelbon was the Closer in 2007. Through the first 7-seasons of all Closers careers – Papelbon’s easily one of the Top 5 Closers of all-time.

      But the Cardinals just won a World Series with 8 different pitchers recording at least one Save during the regular season.

  7. mwelsh1977 - Nov 11, 2011 at 5:46 PM

    Uggh. Closers typically don’t last that long and this guy has already been around. 4 years bothers me. Just like when we gave David Bell a huge contract and were stuck with him at 3rd instead of Polanco who we traded to Detroit for some dirtball middle reliever who wasn’t even on the team the year after.

  8. phillyphreak - Nov 11, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    I have no idea how anyone could defend this trade. Where did all of these posters come from?

    • phillyphreak - Nov 11, 2011 at 7:15 PM

      And I don’t know why I wrote trade. It made me so angry….signing…signing….

  9. duneroad - Nov 11, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Do the Phillies let their pitchers drink in the bullpen?

  10. 8man - Nov 11, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    He will do well. But he should. He’ll have the best lineup in the NL hitting behind him and he’s going from pitching against DH’s to pitching against PH’s.

    But $50 mil? Hmm….that’s a bit salty.

  11. drunkenhooliganism - Nov 11, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    I’m just disgusted by this. I wouldn’t want him for free. I hate him. I’m trying to figure out how I can remain a Phillies’ fan. Papelbon is everything that’s wrong with the world, and now he’s on my team.

    Maybe I should give up the Phillies and spend time with my kids over the summer. That’s what I should do. Save all the money I spend on tickets and put it in their college funds. Again, that’s what I should do.

  12. yourmomsmomsmom - Nov 11, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    How can we afford all this when we are a small market town?

  13. uyf1950 - Nov 12, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    It’s going to be very interesting when the Red Sox and Phillies hook up in interleague play in the summer.

  14. evilempireyanks - Nov 12, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    Good luck Philly. Going to miss Papeldone pitching batting practice in the 9th. Maybe they should occupy MLB, another overpaid 1% who dosen’t contribute to anything.

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