Ruben Amaro Jr. said he wanted a top closer.
He got one.
The Phillies have reached agreement on a four-year contract with free-agent Jonathan Papelbon, multiple sources told CSNPhilly.com on Friday.
The deal, which wont become official until Papelbon passes a physical in the coming days, is worth 50 million. That is the most ever guaranteed a reliever, topping the 47 million that Toronto gave B.J. Ryan in a five-year deal in Dec. 2005. The average annual value of Papelbons deal is 12.5 million. Thats the same average value of the three-year extension that Brad Lidge signed with the club in 2008.
Papelbon, who turns 31 on Nov. 23, averaged 36 saves for the Boston Red Sox over the last six seasons. He will replace Ryan Madson, a 1998 Phillies draft pick whose emergence helped the Phils win the 2008 World Series.
Madson, 31, became the Phillies closer in April and had 32 saves. He could end up replacing Papelbon in Boston. The Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals could also have interest in Madson.
According to sources, Papelbons deal includes a fifth-year option.
Not long ago, the Phillies were reluctant to give pitchers deals of more than three years. In successive off-seasons, they have made it clear they will relax that policy for the right pitcher. Last year, they gave Cliff Lee a five-year, 120 million deal. The willingness to go four years with Papelbon shows just how much Amaro, the teams general manager, values having a top closer behind his star-studded starting pitching rotation.
If we dont stop games that were supposed to win with our staff, then its going to be troublesome and that is something that we need to shore up, Amaro said of the closer position earlier this week.
Why didnt the Phillies shore it up by re-signing Madson? Phillies officials arent commenting, but it appears as if they simply thought Papelbon was a better option. The Phils were negotiating with both pitchers earlier in the week. Sources close to Madson said the two sides were making good progress on a four-year deal when the Phillies suddenly expressed reservations about the proposed deal. Phillies officials say no deal was ever struck between them and Madson. During the week, the focus shifted to Papelbon, and that was verified with Fridays agreement.
Madson, who has a 2.89 ERA over the last five seasons, is one of baseballs best relievers. Ditto for Papelbon who has a 2.30 ERA over the last six seasons. A difference in the two is that all of Papelbons success has come in the closers role. Before this year, Madson worked in a setup role.
Both pitchers have extensive postseason experience. Madson has allowed nine runs in 35 postseason innings. Papelbon has allowed just three runs in 27 postseason innings.
Papelbon was 4-1 with 31 saves and a 2.94 ERA in 2011. He struck out 87 and allowed just 50 hits and 10 walks (one intentional) in 64 13 innings.
Madson was 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 2011. He struck out 62 and allowed 54 hits and 16 walks (eight intentional) in 60 23 innings.
With closer out of the way, the Phillies remaining off-season issues include securing a shortstop and signing a hitter. The Phils would like to re-sign free agent Jimmy Rollins, but wont give him the five-year deal he is seeking. The team is also seriously pursuing free-agent infielderoutfielder Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer visited with team officials in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Amaro likes to work quickly in the off-season, so Cuddyer could be his next signing.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com