10 August 2011
I heard some chatter on 98.5 The Sports Hub yesterday about David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon. The questions was: Should the Red Sox offer both players a multi-year deal after this season?
Papelbon's ERA and walk totals spiked in 2010, but he's on pace for his 6th straight season with 35+ saves and that puts him in an elite group of closers... just in time for a new contract. Ortiz had a disappointing year in 2009, hitting just .238, but he finished with 28 HRs and 99 RBI. Last year he proved the doubters wrong with a .270/32/102 season and he's looked even better this year...
In short, but players have consistently delivered for the Red Sox during thier time here in Boston, but the Sox just signed Lackey, Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez to huge contracts, putting them in a tough spot going forward.
The Sox have the money to do whatever they want, but they've always done well balancing their long term deals with small money contract for the younger players they have under control. Moving forward they'll need to keep that balance and that may mean they have to let one of both of these important players walk next season.
But I have an idea... offer them both contract with performance incentives, like they did with Bobby Jenks' contract. Take Papelon: The main concern here is that he won't be able to sustain his 35 save pace as he gets older. You don't want to wake up in 2014 and be paying Papelbon $15M to be Daniel Bard's set up man because he lost his mojo. The solution? Offer Paps a contract that's heavy up front, but incentive based on the back end. This would work similarly to the 7-year deal Marc Savard signed with the Bruins in 2009:
Savard's deal paid him $7 million for each of the first two seasons of the extension, $6.5 million the third season and $5 million the fourth season. But it dropped to $1.5 million for the 2014-15 season and $525,000 for each of the final two years of the deal.
The Sox could offer Paps something like this: $15M for 2012 and 2013 (Mariano Rivera money), $10M in 2014 and 2015 with incentives for saves and innings pitched and maybe two more years at $6M or $8M with similar incentives. That's still a ton of money for a closer, but the Sox would be paying him a proper salary for his remaining prime years while setting themselves up for the future.
After waiting years for his big pay day, it's hard to imagine Papelbon taking a deal like this, but there are many angles to consider. The Sox don't want Papelbon signing with the Yankees (one of the few teams capable of paying him what he wants) but they just signed Rivera to a 2 year deal through 2012 and he's showing no signs of slowing down. There's also going to be plenty of good closers on the market this offseason including Joe Nathan, Jose Valverde, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, K-Rod and others...
Both of these factoids give the Red Sox leverage. But with all those closers on the move, Paps will be entertaining plenty of offers, which gives him leverage.
Bottom Line: Ortiz is more likely to take an incentive based deal, much like Varitek did as he got older. The Sox could simply take JD Drew's money and give it to Ortiz... say, 2 years and $20 million? But they'll have to get more creative and possibly more aggressive if they want to keep Papelbon.
Who do you guys think is more important to the future of the Red Sox?
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