Jonathan Papelbon likely to ask for $11.5 million in arbitration

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Jonathan Papelbon “is poised to ask for $11.5 million” in his final year of arbitration, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

That would be a raise of slightly over $2 million from his 2010 salary, which Papelbon earned while having the worst season of his career. He blew nine of 46 save opportunities while posting career-worst marks in ERA (3.90), losses (7), walks (28), and homers (7).

Cafardo notes that the Red Sox almost always avoid actually going through the arbitration process with players, instead agreeing to a contract before the hearing can take place, but speculates that “they might fight this one out.”

However, while it makes sense that someone shouldn’t get a $2.15 million raise to $11.5 million following a career-worst season the arbitration process works in such a way that a raise was all but guaranteed unless Papelbon got hurt or was downright terrible. In other words, “fight this one out” could just as easily backfire for the Red Sox and result in their having to pay him $11.5 million instead of a slightly lesser figure reached via pre-hearing compromise.

Of course, there’s nothing actually forcing the Red Sox to keep Papelbon. They could simply non-tender him if they don’t like the potential $11.5 million price tag or trade him to a team more willing to pay that much for a 30-year-old closer showing various signs of decline.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”