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Papelbon Jigs for Phillies

Posted By Christopher Rowe On Nov 12 2011 @ 1:53 pm In Philadelphia Phillies | 6 Comments

For Phillies fans hoping that Ryan Madson would remain the hometown bullpen hero at Citizens Bank Park, it may be disappointing to hear this news. Former Red Sox closer Jonathon Papelbon has become the newest Philadelphia multi-millionare and will be the Phillies closer into the foreseeable future.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the Philadelphia Phillies and Papelbon have agreed to a $50 million, four-year contract that’s the largest ever for a reliever. The deal has not been finalized and is subject to Papelbon passing a physical. This does, however all but ensure that longtime Phillies Ryan Madson will shop his wares for some other team in 2012.

Papelbon, who will turn 30 on Nov. 23, had 219 saves over seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, including 31 in 2011, when he made $12 million. He replaces Ryan Madson, who had spent most of 2011 as the Phillies closer. Madson was a professional setup man behind Brad Lidge and Billy Wagner before converting 32 of 34 chances in his first season as closer. Speaking of Brad Lidge, Papelbon resembles the 2008 version of the man who saved a perfect 41 chances in the Phillies 2008 championship season. Papelbon features a wicked slider complimented by a 95-MPH fastball and National League hitters have good reason to fear both pitches.

B.J. Ryan’s $47 million, five-year contract with Toronto signed before the 2006 season had been the largest for a reliever previously but with other premiere closers on the market this record may be broken again. Lidge joins Madson on the free agent market along with Heath Bell, Matt Capps, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan, Octavio Dotel and Kyle Farnsworth. Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Valverde and Rafael Soriano may join the mix should they opt out in favor of free agency. There are also a bevy of second-tier setup men being cut loose.

Madson’s agent (Scott Boras) and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. were close to a $44 million, four-year deal Monday. Amaro told Boras the following day that Phillies Team President Dave Montgomery wouldn’t approve the deal. That offer included a vesting option that would have taken the contract to $57 million over five years. Papelbon’s deal includes an option for a fifth season with incentives which have yet to be disclosed.

Papelbon, a right-hander and a four-time All-Star, helped the Red Sox to the 2007 World Series title. He donned a kilt and danced his trademark Irish jig at the championship celebration. Now he plans to bring his steps, costume and talent to Philadelphia where he plans to win another World Series. Whether or not that occurs against his former team is still to be determined. The five-time NL East champion Phillies are still seeking their second Series victory since 2008. They got knocked out in the NL division series this year and NLCS in 2010 after coming very close to beating the Yankees in the 2009 World Series.

Papelbon has converted 88.3% of his save opportunities to go with a 23-19 record and a 2.33 ERA in 396 appearances. He had a career-high 41 saves in 2008. Papelbon’s departure probably left the Red Sox closing job in the hands of Daniel Bard, who had been outstanding as a set-up man before falling apart down late in the season. Bard finished with a 2-9 record and 3.33 ERA that included an 0-4 record and 10.64 ERA in September. Bobby Jenks, who closed for the Chicago White Sox when they won the World Series in 2005, is recovering from an embolism and then needs back surgery. He is expected to be ready to pitch for the Red Sox during spring training and may vie for the closer’s role in Boston.

Papelbon is a Type A free agent, meaning the Phillies will have to forfeit their first pick in next year’s amateur draft to Boston. Depending on what happens with their own free agents (Madson, Lidge, Oswalt) they may get a compensatory pick in return as well as a sandwich pick.

It is widely believed that the Phillies free-spending days may not be over. Jim Thome has rejoined the team as a pinch-hitter and backup first baseman (upgrade from Ross Gload). Raul Ibanez, Roy Oswalt, Ross Gload and Brad Lidge are all potentially not returning unless in reduced roles and there is the question of Jimmy Rollins. This leaves left field, shortstop, the bullpen and the fifth starter’s role in play as well as some potential bench upgrades.

With Ryan Howard slated to miss the first two months of the season, Thome will platoon at first base with John Mayberry, Jr – who is also competing for the left field spot. More than likely, free agents such as Michael Cuddyer or Grady Sizemore will be considered. Cuddyer can also contribute at 3B, 1B, OF and perhaps 2B while his right-handed bat would add pop and flexibility to the lineup. Sizemore battled injury over the past two seasons (397 AB in 100 games) but finally has a clean bill of health. At 29 years of age, Sizemore has averaged a .269 BA, 25 HR, 24 SB and 83 RBI. While Sizemore may not return to the form that saw him play all 162 games, post a .290 BA or knock in 90 RBI with 33 HR, replacing the 39-year-old Raul Ibanez would still only require .245, 20 HR and 84 RBI. Signing both Sizemore and Cuddyer would afford the Phillies an outfield rotation to augment Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and John Mayberry. This would allow valuable off days for Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Victorino as flexibility and depth have not been strengths for Charlie Manuel’s teams.

Looming questions also remain at shortstop (Jimmy Rollins seeks a 5-year/$15M deal in free agency), the rotation (can Joe Blanton, Vance Worley or Kyle Kendrick replace Roy Oswalt to compliment The Three Aces) and bullpen (Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and Joe Savery will compete with Michael Scwimmer and Justin DeFratus to replace the likes of Jose Contreras, Brad Lidge and the twice departed JC Romero).

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