Papelbon, Stanley, and the Red Sox's saves record

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While not quite Trevor Hoffman versus Mariano Rivera, last night Jonathan Papelbon saved his 133rd career game to move past Bob Stanley for the Red Sox’s all-time record.

Stanley accumulated 132 saves over 13 years in Boston, saving more than
20 games just twice from 1977-1989, but to Papelbon’s credit he was quick to recognize how different that era was for closers:

The era of baseball he pitched in was a lot different and in my
opinion a lot harder, with a lot of two- or three-inning saves. The
game’s become a lot more specialized now and so to get this milestone
is huge, to follow in the footsteps of guys like that.

Papelbon is right on the money and it’s an important point to make
given that many young fans have probably never seen a closer who wasn’t
held back for one-inning appearances with leads of 1-3 runs. Stanley
didn’t have a ton of saves because getting a ton of saves wasn’t the
primarily purpose of a closer back then (and it shouldn’t be now, but
that’s a rant for another day).

Instead he–like most top relievers of the 1970s, 1980s, and
basically any time before the 1990s–was called upon to pitch in the
most crucial situations whether that came in the seventh inning of a
tie game with two men on base or the ninth inning with the bases empty
and a three-run lead. Stanley made 552 career relief appearances,
pitching an average of 2.1 innings per outing, which is basically
unheard of in today’s game.

By comparison, Papelbon has made 237 career relief appearances,
pitching an average of 1.1 innings per outing. Stanley was basically
asked to get twice as many outs as Papelbon every time he came out of
the bullpen to pitch. When he recorded 33 saves in 1983, Stanley
pitched 63 innings in those 33 appearances, including 21 saves of more
than three outs and nine saves that involved working at least three

Papelbon has pitched more than one inning twice this season, never
getting more than five outs, and has pitched three innings exactly once
in 234 career relief appearances. All of which isn’t to say that
Stanley is some sort of super reliever or that Papelbon isn’t an
amazing pitcher, but as we get further into the “saves era” the
tendency is to evaluate closers by a single statistic that
short-changes the guys who wriggled out jams, worked multiple innings
all the time, and weren’t held back to get the final three outs.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.