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?
UPDATE, 12:07 p.m. EDT: The Royals have confirmed reports of Yordano Ventura’s death with an official statement. No further details pertaining to the accident have been divulged.
Terrible, terrible news: Christian Moreno of ESPN reports that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura has been killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. His death has been confirmed by police. He was only 25 years-old. There are as of yet no details about the accident.
Ventura was a four-year veteran, having debuted in 2013 but truly bursting onto the scene for the Royals in 2014. That year he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings, ascending to the national stage along with the entire Royals team with some key performances in that year’s ALDS and World Series. The following year Ventura won 13 games for the World Champion Royals and again appeared in the playoffs and World Series.
Ventura was often in the middle of controversy — he found himself in several controversies arising out of his habit of hitting and brushing back hitters — but he was an undeniably electric young talent who was poised to anchor the Royals rotation for years to come. His loss, like that of Jose Fernandez just this past September, is incalculable to both his team, his fans and to Major League Baseball as a whole.
Our thoughts go out to his family, his friends, his teammates and his fans.
Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).
Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.
While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.