The pitchers who usually finish games have been the starters of baseball’s offseason news. With free against like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder anticipated to take weeks before signing contracts, two prominent closers have the “hot stove” burning in the northeast.
Former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who collected 219 saves over the last six seasons in Boston, has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. The potential contract also includes a fifth-year vesting option for 2016 that could bring the total value of the deal to over $60 million. Papelbon will take a physical early next week before the deal can become official.
The Phillies’ signing of Papelbon is big news for several reasons. Boston and Philadelphia are current MLB stalwarts, so a prominent player changing between those franchises is noteworthy. A closer getting a four-year deal for over $12 million a season is eye-opening for free agents and management all around baseball. And it’s especially interesting that it was just a few days ago when multiple reports surfaced of last year’s closer, Ryan Madson, agreeing to a four-year, $44 million contract to remain in Philadelphia. Subsequently, it was reported that Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and Madson’s agent, Scott Boras, had verbally agreed to the deal and that it just needed the approval of club president David Montgomery. After no Madson contract was signed, Amaro insisted that there was never a deal in place.
So what happened? Perhaps multiple reports were wrong, or maybe the Phillies got cold feet. Or perhaps once Amaro knew what Madson would take to re-sign, he could then better negotiate with Papelbon’s camp? No deal is ever official until it is signed, as Madson may have learned the hard way.
Papelbon’s signing becomes very interesting for other prominent closers. The Red Sox will be looking for a stopper, with Madson and Padres’ fireman Heath Bell as the leading candidates. The 30-year-old Papelbon will now move from one pressurized MLB market to another, or at least he will when a contract is actually signed.