Papelbon, Red Sox avoid arbitration: $12 million

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In what could very well be his last year as the Red Sox’ closer Jonathan Papelbon has agreed to a $12 million contract for 2011, avoiding arbitration.

At least I guess it’s his last year. I and a lot of other folks were half-convinced that the Sox would non-tender Papelbon this winter, letting him take his chances as a free agent, rather than pay him eight figures.  Then, after signing Bobby Jenks — and because Bard is waiting in the wings — some folks thought that maybe Papelbon would lose his closer’s job.  He got the vote of confidence on that score almost as soon as Jenks signed: Papelbon is still the closer.

It’s a lot of money for a guy who has been going in the wrong direction the past couple of years. I wonder if Theo Epstein wouldn’t have saved a couple million bucks by taking Papelbon to arbitration and taking his chances. But it’s not like he’s become a bad pitcher, either, which is something that is easy to forget as tempers flare over the occasional blown save during the summer.

Athletics hire third base coach Matt Williams

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The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.

Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.

Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.

While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.

“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”