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.