Jonathan Papelbon Rumors
As of today, players with expired contracts are eligible to file for free agency, but teams still have until Thursday at 12:01am ET to exclusively negotiate with their free agents. So far though, the Red Sox have yet to make a contract offer to closer Jonathan Papelbon, according to WEEI's Rob Bradford.
During his introductory press conference this week, Ben Cherington indicated there had been some dialogue with Papelbon and that he expects the two sides to continue to talk. However, the new Red Sox GM tells Bradford that he doesn't expect a contract to be signed before Thursday: "My impression is that Pap will probably get into free agency. I'm not ruling anything out, but that's my impression."
The Red Sox figure to offer Papelbon arbitration in November, so if the Type-A free agent does sign with another club, the Sox would snag two draft picks out of the deal. For a more in-depth look at Papelbon's free agent stock, check out MLBTR's Dan Mennella's piece from back in August.
The Red Sox introduced Ben Cherington as their executive VP and general manager this afternoon. Cherington says the Red Sox will have a very good team in 2012 and discussed Boston's managerial search and other offseason plans. He also announced that John Lackey will undergo Tommy John surgery. Here are the details:
- Cherington wants a new manager with a strong voice who cares about players and can collaborate with the front office. He says the team will start interviewing candidates soon. The Red Sox have several candidates in mind for first round interviews, but they haven't asked permission to interview any of them yet. Previous managerial experience would be a plus, but it's not necessary.
- Boston's success in terms of free agent signings has "not [been] good enough," according to Cherington.
- Despite Boston's disappointing 2011 season, Cherington says the Red Sox have enough on and off of the field to succeed. "What I'm left with is a conviction that the Red Sox will be the best organization in baseball going forward," he said.
- The Red Sox would like to have David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon back, according to Cherington. They have had some initial dialogue with each player and they expect to continue discussions.
- The Red Sox will look to build pitching depth and could go for buy-low acquisitions.
- Cherington believes Marco Scutaro would be "very coveted" this offseason if he got onto the market. The Red Sox have a $6MM option for Scutaro that they'll likely pick up this offseason ($3MM player option, $1.5MM buyout).
- Cherington says he pushed hard to sign Carl Crawford and believes in him.
- The new GM discussed the importance of having top talent evaluators and vowed that the Red Sox will employ some of the top scouts in the game.
- Boston's farm system is "stronger and deeper than ever" at Double-A and below, Cherington said.
- Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino says the Red Sox hired a team player who is hungry for more success. "There is no one more prepared to take on the role of General Manager of the Red Sox than Ben,” he said. “He will hit the ground running, in full stride, and no one will outwork him.”
- "I've always believed in hybrid baseball executives and Ben is a hybrid baseball executive," Lucchino said.
- The Red Sox will soon announce promotions within their front office. Epstein has not asked Cherington about taking front office members with him to Chicago.
- Cherington is the first person from our list of GM Candidates to land a GM job. Here's my piece on Cherington from August 2011.
- Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein discussed the Cubs and Red Sox at his introductory press conference in Chicago earlier today.
The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.
Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.
Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things -- innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on -- it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.
During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.
The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.
- Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
- Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
- Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times.
- Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
- Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
"It really truly isn't all about the money," closer Jonathan Papelbon told WEEI's Rob Bradford. In that case, he would have remained a starter. Instead, the impending free agent says, "I'm going to a place where I know I'm going to succeed. I'm going to a place where I know I have a chance to win a championship. I'm going to a place where I know that my family is going to be safe, my family is going to like the environment, and everything else that goes along with off-field stuff."
The door is still open for Papelbon to return to the Red Sox, though no talks have occurred yet. Papelbon told Bradford that he told Sox GM Theo Epstein, "Listen man, if you ever need anything, I'm here for you whether I'm going to be back here or whether I'm not going to be back here." Papelbon has set arbitration records for closers the past three years, but says contract talks were "extremely easy for both sides."
The next step may be the Red Sox offering arbitration to the 30-year-old stopper, who qualifies as a Type A free agent. Last year November 23rd was the deadline to offer arbitration to free agents, but it appears the deadline might be November 30th this year.
On September 3, the Red Sox had a 99.6% chance of making the postseason, according to statistican Nate Silver. The next day, Silver notes that Bill Buckner played himself on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that spoofed Buckner's legendary World Series error. The Sox went 6-18 after Buckner's cameo. As Larry David himself would say, that is a prett-ay, prett-ay, prett-ay big coincidence.
Some notes from Boston as the fallout continues from the Red Sox' legendary collapse....
- Theo Epstein and Terry Francona met with the media today, and Alex Speier from WEEI had the details. Epstein said that the team had just finished an initial review of its baseball personnel and wouldn't make any decisions for a few days yet.
- Epstein said that Francona wasn't being singled out as the cause for Boston's collapse. "That would be totally irresponsible and totally short-sighted and wouldn’t recognize everything he means to the organization and to all our successes, including, at times, in 2011,” Epstein said. “So we take full responsibility for what happened, all of us. Collectively it was a failure....I’m the general manager so I take more responsibility than anybody. I don’t think we believe in – I know we don’t believe in scapegoats. In particular, no one blames Tito for what happened in September. Look, we all failed collectively."
- Epstein dismissed rumors about his connection to the Cubs' general manager's job as "just speculation."
- Francona said he wasn't yet prepared to discuss his future with the Sox, saying last night's devastating result was "still pretty fresh and pretty raw." The manager said he and Epstein would sit down within the next few days.
- Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated hears from several "baseball people" that Francona and the Sox could mutually decide to part ways. If Francona does leave, it probably won't be to the White Sox, as Heyman hears Chicago "may go younger" (both Twitter links).
- Epstein said the club would examine its process for evaluating free agents, given the failures of John Lackey, Carl Crawford and past free agents like Matt Clement and Julio Lugo. Though Lackey and Crawford struggled this season, Epstein said the team will do everything possible to get both players back up to par for 2012.
- Epstein praised the performances of David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon, saying he hopes the Sox can figure out a way to bring both pending free agents back to Boston this winter.
- Peter Gammons thinks Lackey may have to be traded for another bad contract like Barry Zito or Carlos Zambrano, reports WEEI.com's Paul Flannery. "I'm not sure John is ever going to fit in Boston again. I understand how upset he is but I think it's going to be hard for fans to warm up to him again," Gammons said. Gammons notes that other teams who suffered late-season breakdowns underwent major organizational changes, though he thinks Francona will return as manager.
- ESPN's Buster Olney looks at some key figures on the Red Sox and Braves whose status is in question in the wake of both teams' terrible Septembers. Olney thinks Lackey has to be moved, predicts changes to Boston's coaching staff and hears it's "highly unlikely" Epstein leaves, though friends of the GM say he would embrace the challenge of running the Cubs.
- Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal thinks Epstein should take the fall for building a roster with too many holes.
The Red Sox have dropped five in a row, and GM Theo Epstein joined WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show today to offer his take. A few highlights:
- Epstein hasn't ruled out outside acquisitions, but internal solutions are much preferred.
- "There's never been a lack of interest" in keeping closer Jonathan Papelbon in Boston. Added Epstein, "I have to think there’s a lot of mutual interest in continuing the relationship." Papelbon is eligible for free agency after the season, having earned $27.6MM over his three arbitration years.
- The Red Sox are "obviously" interested in having designated hitter David Ortiz back, but Epstein says now is not the time to talk about that stuff.
- The GM's thoughts on having Kevin Millwood in the organization: "At the time, we had guys ahead of him. His stuff, in our judgment and the judgment of our Triple-A staff, it wasn’t going to play at the major league level here for the Red Sox above the other options that we had." The 36-year-old veteran has since posted a 3.79 ERA in six starts for the Rockies.
A Marlins shakeup is looming and the focus is on the team's minor league system, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in this week's edition of Full Count. Jim Fleming, the vice president of player development and scouting, has informed his staff that he will be reassigned. The club's revenues will grow once they move into their new stadium but they still need to do a better job of producing homegrown talent. Let's take a look at some more highlights from Full Count..
- The Red Sox are reluctant to give lucrative long-term contracts to closers, but with Jonathan Papelbon they might not be able to resist. Papelbon will want an increase from his $12MM salary, perhaps something closer to Mariano Rivera's $15MM average yearly pay. It's possible that no team will want to go there but Rivera has just one year left on his deal and Rafael Soriano hardly looks like the heir to Mo's throne. Rosenthal wonders aloud if the Yankees would jump in and offer Papelbon a backloaded deal to take over as closer.
- The Rangers would seem to be an obvious suitor for Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, especially in light of Mitch Moreland's recent struggles. Texas will have to spend on pitching if they lose C.J. Wilson in free agency and they might prefer to keep both their payroll and roster flexible. Josh Hamilton is only one year away from free agency and Ian Kinsler is only two years away.
- The sale of the Astros to Jim Crane is not yet official and some in baseball believe that he will not be approved as owner. Others, however, view a deal as inevitable. Current owner Drayton McLane wants out and Crane is offering a fair price for the club. Perhaps most importantly, there does not appear to be any other bidders. McLane has been loyal to the commissioner's office and he will want to see that loyalty reciprocated.
In an upcoming class of free agents flush with solid closers, Red Sox stopper Jonathan Papelbon will arguably be the grand prize. Papelbon, 31 in November, is still in his prime and on track for his sixth consecutive campaign of at least 35 saves in as many seasons as Boston's closer. He didn't merely compile those saves by virtue of simply holding the job; the 2.33 career ERA and 2.68 FIP are befitting a stud closer.
This season, in particular, has been an important one for Papelbon on the heels of a tumultuous 2010. He's posted a 3.14 ERA and 26 saves to date, but if you dig deeper, the advanced estimators like him more than that, enough for a 2.37 xFIP and 1.62 SIERA. If the end-of-season numbers are closer to those figures, Paps will hit the open market on quite the high note.
Papelbon avoided arbitration last offseason for a $12MM salary in 2011, and I'd guess he won't want to take a cut in annual salary (I know, going out on a limb there). And considering three-year deals were handed out like so many Jolly Ranchers to setup men such as Joaquin Benoit and Scott Downs last winter, he'd be silly not to seek a pact of at least that length.
The tricky part is that his most obvious suitor, or perhaps the one that seems the likeliest, is his current team, the Red Sox, and they have plenty of bargaining leverage. Setup man Daniel Bard has emerged as one of the game's elite relievers the past couple years, and Ryan Madson, Heath Bell and Francisco Rodriguez threaten to dent the market for Papelbon, as do older guys like Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, Brad Lidge and Jose Valverde, whose respective teams hold club options for 2012.
Bargaining is a ways off yet, but a couple of experts have shared interesting and differing takes recently. One NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he wouldn't break up the formidable late-innings duo of Bard and Papelbon, and that he thinks Boston will buck up when it comes down to it. Meanwhile, Peter Gammons said last month that if Papelbon is seeking something like three years and $36MM, the Sox will likely allow him to walk.
I think the terms mentioned by Gammons are probably the magic numbers for Papelbon. Consider, for example, that Mariano Rivera will have earned $15MM for five consecutive years from 2008-12 (on three- and two-year contracts), and $36MM for three doesn't seem so unreasonable. Of course, that's a dicey comparison because of Mo's greatness, his inextricable ties to the Yankees organization and so on. But there are parallels. Is Paps the Red Sox's Rivera? More pointedly, will the sides proceed in contract dealings the way the Yanks and Rivera have -- knowing that they need each other? My bet is, "yes."
Heading into 2011, with Jonathan Papelbon coming off his worst season and in a contract year, it seemed to be just a matter of time until Daniel Bard took over as the Red Sox closer. As the offseason approaches though, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that it will be very difficult for the Sox to lose Papelbon. While they could replace him with Bard, they'd then have to find a reliever capable of filling Bard's eighth inning role. One National League executive said he thinks the Sox should bring Papelbon back: "If the resources were there to have both of those guys at the end of the game, and I believe they are, then there’s no way you break that up." Here are the rest of today's Red Sox updates:
- Within Cafardo's piece, an NL GM wondered what sort of deal Papelbon could land on the open market this winter: "Is the market that teams are willing to spend on a closer more in the $8MM to $10MM range now? It depends, I guess, on how desperate you are. It takes one team."
- Cafardo says the Red Sox could still consider Rich Harden as an August trade target, if he makes it to them on waivers. Boston nearly worked out a trade for the right-hander in July, but it fell through due to medical concerns. It's worth remembering, however, that the Sox didn't nix the deal entirely - they still tried to acquire Harden at a reduced cost.
- Boston put "just about everyone" through waivers this week, according to Cafardo.
- David Ortiz told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the Red Sox should make it a priority to lock up Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term deal. Rosenthal rightly pointed out that Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras, typically likes to see his clients hit free agency, making an extension less likely.
The AL East won't be short on storylines tonight, when the Red Sox host the Yankees in Boston and Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie makes his MLB debut against the Orioles in Baltimore. Here's the latest from the division...
- Top Orioles draft pick Dylan Bundy is in Baltimore for a physical and he told Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun that he hasn't yet started negotiations with the team (Twitter links).
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Red Sox made a late push for Fausto Carmona before the trade deadline.
- Jonathan Papelbon told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that he is not going to set up for anyone. Papelbon, who hits free agency after the season, then reinforced his point by speaking about himself in the third person. "Cinco don't set-up," he said. "Never."
- Justin Duchscherer had successful hip surgery today, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). The right-hander hopes to pitch in 2012, but it won't be with the Orioles, who released him earlier in the week.
- As Zrebiec explains, the regression of the Orioles' top young arms is the biggest reason that it's hard to see the club threatening for a playoff spot in the near future.