The Red Sox painful collapse last season ended with their fiery closer Jonathan Papelbon walking off the mound after blowing game 162. That fatal blow will be the last memory Boston fans have of Papelbon, who reportedly signed with the Phillies on Friday.
The soon to be 31-year-old closer agreed to a four-year deal with last season’s NL East champs worth $50 million, that has a vesting option that would give Papelbon another $13 million. It is the most money ever given to a reliever, surpassing the five-year, $47 million deal that B.J. Ryan got in 2006.
Despite bolstering their pitching rotation prior to the 2011 season, the Phillies were stunned by eventual World Series champs St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs. But knowing they lost to the champs doesn’t make losing feel any better, so the Phils went out to get another pitcher.
Papelbon had strong year after struggling in 2010. He finished with 31 saves, a 2.94 ERA, and 87 strikeouts compared to 10 walks. And he still knows how to stare down his opponent before every pitch.
He will take his 219 career saves and his fierce attitude to Philadelphia, who signed Papelbon to a pricey contract before knowing if they have to give up their first-round pick to the Red Sox in next year’s draft. That is one of the issues under negotiation during labor talks.
Papelbon’s departure leaves the Red Sox with another issue to resolve before the season begins. They have yet to hire a new manager after the departure of Terry Francona, and they also lost their GM Theo Epstein.
His replacement Ben Cherington said of Papelbon’s situation: “We knew he was going to be in demand and we knew that teams in position to win would have interest in him,” ESPN Boston reported.
The Red Sox could look to promote setup man Daniel Bard to the closer role if they don’t want to sign a pitcher during free agency.