Just days after the Phillies were thought to be close to re-signing closer Ryan Madson, with even the terms of the supposed deal presented as common knowledge, the front office has apparently decided to go in a different direction after all. Jim Salisbury is reporting the club reached an agreement on Friday with right-hander Jonathan Papelbon, who held the closer role in Boston for the past six seasons.
The terms of the contract are not yet official, but it's believed Papelbon will get four years. Considering how close the team was to signing Madson, only for the deal to ultimately fall through, we believed they might have been able sign his replacement for slightly less money, but Sully also tweeted the contract approaches $50 million.
Jayson Stark is adding that the deal includes a vesting option for a fifth-year that could drive the total north of $60 million.
The Phillies were thought to have a four-year deal worth between $44 and $48 million on the table for Madson earlier in the week. That deal was also said to have an option for a fifth year. However, who knows if those reports were legit, or how close the two sides ever got.
The 6'4" Papelbon turns 31 this month. A four-time All-Star reliever, he was 4-1 with a 2.94 ERA, an impressive 0.93 WHIP, and 31 saves in 2011, his lowest total since he assumed the role in '06. He only blew three saves last season, and he's finished no lower than 8th in saves every year.
There might be some opposition to this signing, at least partly due to his rocky performance in 2010. Despite his All Star selection, it was by far Papelbon's worst season in the Majors. The Louisiana native was 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA, blowing a career-high eight saves. The numbers suggest he seemed to get back on track this year though.
Coming from the Red Sox, Papelbon has plenty of post-season experience, and was a member of the 2007 World Series team. He has seven career post-season saves, three of those in the World Series,and just one blown save in his last playoff appearance versus the Angels in 2009.
Papelbon was #18 on Law's Top 50 Free Agents, two spots behind Madson:
As long as he throws his splitter to keep hitters from teeing off on the fastball, he'll be OK. He can't live on the fastball alone, and I don't think he's staring at another six or seven years of throwing that hard for that many innings.
Madson came into his own as the Phillies' closer last season, going 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 32 saves, with two blown. He came up through the organization, so in that respect it would have been nice if the organization could have found a way to keep him around. Madson is also 31 though, and doesn't have nearly the impressive body of work Papelbon does.
In my estimation, the two pitchers are fairly similar in terms of age and contract demands, but Papelbon is more proven, and perhaps easier to sign.
So, as always, we bring this to the public. Did Ruben Amaro make the right move?