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According to a source close to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox are likely going to tender a contract to Jonathan Papelbon, “unless something cataclysmic happens in the next few hours.” This move would bring Papelbon to his final year of arbitration eligibility.
Paps made $9.35 million in 2010 and would likely earn about $11 million in 2010. Given the team’s bullpen issues last year, it’s not surprising they are willing to shell out that kind of money for one more year of the closer in his prime. If the Red Sox chose not to tender a contract to Papelbon, like with Hideki Okajima, then he would become a free agent.
Papelbon had the worst season of his career as the Sox closer in 2010, finishing with career highs in blown saves (8), losses (7), walks (28), home runs allowed (7), and ERA (3.90), along with a 1.27 WHIP that was the highest since his rookie season. With that said, the rest of the bullpen aside from Daniel Bard was a lot worse, and that’s saying something.
Despite his rocky ’10 campaign, he is still a top 10 closer in baseball, and is in line for a lot of money next offseason if he has a great year in 2011. Expect improvements in some areas, but the days of sub-1.00 WHIPs (2006, 2007, 2008) and single-digit walk totals (2008) are probably history.
Paps will remain the closer for one more season in 2011, and then will likely sign a multi-year deal with another team before the 2012 season, assuming the Red Sox don’t trade him first (which is not likely). At that point, Bard (unless he’s traded) will take over as the team’s closer.