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.