Proven closer or not: Papelbon is as good as gone

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FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi has a column up today in which he argues that the Red Sox have to bring Jonathan Papelbon back next year.  His reasoning: he’s a Proven Closer! Sure, Daniel Bard may be good, but he’s never pitched the ninth inning!  If you let Papelbon go and Bard closes, who pitches the eighth?!

It’s nothing we haven’t read before when closer controversies arise. Closing is different and special and mysterious yadda, yadda yadda. I got tired of ripping that stuff a few years ago so I’ll refrain from doing it again. I’ll just note that when the best closer of all time moved from starting to being a setup man to being a closer for a championship team without any previous closing experience, I’d say that the concept of the Proven Closer is pretty much garbage. At least if you don’t think the Yankees should have kept John Wetteland around a few more years. 

The most striking thing about it, though, is that the piece has only one brief mention of the most salient fact regarding Jonathan Papelbon and 2011: his eight figure salary.  And he’ll get it if the Sox want to bring him back, because he’s arbitration-eligible and arbitration does not lower salaries for guys like Papelbon. It raises them. He makes $9.35 million this year. He got a $3 million raise last year. You figure out how expensive he’s going to be in 2011.

Sure, some teams are happy to pay $12 million for a shaky closer who splits time as a setup man, but the Red Sox aren’t that kind of team. Barring Daniel Bard getting run over by a streetcar*, I’d bet my son that Papelbon gets non-tendered or otherwise shipped out this winter.

*Yes, this is my second “run over by a streetcar” reference today. I just woke up with the idea in my head for some reason. 

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.