I do not subscribe to the theory that “anyone can close” a ballgame, but I find contracts of more than 3 years to pitchers too risky for my taste; and absurd when it comes to bullpen arms. I guess from that statement you know what I think of the 4-year/$45 million dollar deal Ruben Amaro gave to Jonathan Papelbon.
Although still a very good closer, Papelbon has dropped off a bit since 2009. During the Red Sox September collapse, he posted a very hittable 3.72 ERA and blew the final game of the season. With that said, he is still in the upper echelon of closers, but will he be as effective 2 years from now? 3 years? Do you honestly believe he will be in 4? Remember, he is going to be 31 years old this coming season.
Joe Nathan signed a 4 year/$47 million dollar contract with a $12.5 million dollar team option with Minnesota before the 2008 season. At the time, Nathan was probably was the second best closer in baseball to Rivera. He was extremely effective in 2008 and 2009, but blew out his elbow and missed the entire 2010 season. His 2011 was uneven, as was to be expected the first year back from Tommy John surgery. In short, the Twins had dead money on their payroll for half the deal. Nathan is actually a free agent this winter and probably could be had for 2-years and about $20 million. I can’t see him performing any worse than Jonathan Papelbon. There are other potential fireman on the market such as Frank Francisco, Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Heath Bell and their own free agent, Ryan Madson.
I don’t see a considerable difference between a Francisco and a Papelbon at this point in their careers. As Chris mentioned, Madson was rumored to want slightly less, but I wonder if he will really end up with more than 3 years. Why not make every effort to bring back someone that you know? I understand the Phils have a small window of opportunity to compete for a championship. They need to capitalize on the Halladay/Lee double-ace tandem, but I can’t see why they jumped so early in the process and gave a monster contract they probably will regret in the next couple of years. They paid for a designer name that probably won’t give them designer performance. The only worse contract on their roster is the big guy who plays first base and will be watching from the stands on crutches due to an Achilles injury.