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.