Jonathan Papelbon has signed with the Phillies pending a physical. The deal is reported to be 4-years for $50 million with a vesting 5th option year that would be for another $13 million.
I wish Jonathan Papelbon nothing but the best. I'm guessing most Red Sox fans feel the same way. Papelbon had 219 saves for the Red Sox to go along with a career 2.33 ERA. Papelbon gave his best every time he took the mound and he always took the mound - never injured or begging off. That didn't go unnoticed by the fans.
Papelbon made no secret of what he wanted to accomplish regarding his contract. When he was under team control he publicly said he wanted to get the highest arbitration award amount ever for a closer. He publicly spurned the idea of a long-term deal because he wanted to set the record contract amount for a free-agent closer as well. Which now he has. Papelbon signing elsewhere for a mega-deal was easily predicted by anyone paying attention.
The Red Sox paid Papelbon $12 million this year and I'm guessing they didn't have any issue with that given the fine season Papelbon gave back in return (4-1 2.94 ERA with 31 saves). It was the 5-years that I'm guessing gave the Red Sox pause. The unwritten baseball 11th Commandment is "Thou shall not give a pitcher a 5-year deal." There's good reason for that. The problem I see is the fact that Papelbon's career numbers through his first 7 seasons are scarily similar to Mariano Rivera's first 7 seasons. Would you hesitate to give a 31-year old Mariano Rivera a 5-year deal?
It is easy to argue that any comparison to Mo Rivera is unfair because Rivera is one of a kind. But the same can easily be said of Jonathan Papelbon. He's much closer to Rivera in fact than to guys like Frankie Rodriguez or Joe Nathan. Having said that - Papelbon and his 8 blown saves were a big reason the Red Sox did not make the playoffs in 2010 and I don't think you can lay a claim like that at the feet of Mariano Rivera for any of his 17 seasons.
In the end I predict that the Red Sox will move on from Papelbon with some success and some failure. Papelbon will probably finish his career with 300+ saves and a World Series ring with both the Red Sox and Phillies. His case for the Hall of Fame when he retires will be very strong. I also predict that after Papelbon retires that he'll miraculously find the ball from the final out of the 2007 World Series that supposedly his dog ate.