There were many, many potential closers on the market this morning. None had signed yet. None made the sort of money Jonathan Papelbon did last year, have the mileage on their arms that he does and most of them aren’t his age. Yet, somehow, Ruben Amaro decided that Papelbon needed a four-year, $50 million deal.
You OK with that, Philly fans? You OK with Papelbon getting one more year and $13 million more than Brad Lidge got on his last deal?
Not to say that Papelbon is bad. He’s not. Had a really nice bounceback year in 2011. The real issue here is a four-year deal for a closer of any stripe. Those are pretty rare and rarely have they ever worked out. Joe Nathan had a decent one at the same age as Papelbon. As Alex Speier noted in a column the other day, though, 11 closers have been given multi-year deals worth $9 million or more. With the exception of Mariano Rivera, they just haven’t worked out and most have been fairly disastrous. And that’s just multi-year deals, not four freaking years.
I’ll grant that Papelbon could be a moderate improvement over Ryan Madson in the near term, but it doesn’t make them markedly better as a team. It certainly doesn’t make them any younger, as this deal takes Papelbon through his age 34 season. It doesn’t help the Phillies bottom line by damn sight, and it’s already pretty heavily-loaded with big salaries owed to aging players.
So the question is why? Why these dollars to this dude? Why, when there are other holes to fill on this team — offense is a concern, pitching not nearly as much — do the Phillies need to go out and get an expensive Proven Closer?
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.