Tony Massarotti makes the case today on Boston.Com that Jonathan Papelbon is no longer the pitcher he was from 2006-2008 and the Sox should make him available this Summer. I said as much over the Winter and given how the Sox are playing, and how Papelbon pitched this week in New York, I find myself in total agreement with Tony.
Listen, I am not advocating that the Sox puke Papelbon and sell him for sixty cents on the dollar. And if the Sox pull themselves out of this funk and get into the race by July 15, my interest in dealing Cinco Ocho would decline. But here are some facts/points to consider:
* Tony is right. Papelbon is not the same pitcher he was in 07 and 08. His velocity is down, his strikeouts are way down and his walks are up. That is not an appetizing recipe. Prior to Monday, his numbers were fine but let’s be clear, they are not what they once were.
* He is expensive. Papelbon is making $9.35M this year and next year, that number will probably be close to $11M.
* If Papelbon were in line for an extension, he would have gotten it already. So, the implication is clear. The Sox do not intend to sign Pap when he becomes a free agent after 2011. Well, certainly not to a long-term deal. So Pap is only scheduled to be here for one more season.
* He does not pitch well against the Yankees, as confirmed by an ERA of 6.75 since the start of the 2008 season. If you think you are going to have a good team in 2011 and want to go head-to-head with the Yankees, do you still think Pap is the guy to lock that team down? Familiarity breeds contempt and because they are so familiar witih him, the Yankees have been treating Pap with an awful lot of contempt.
* Daniel Bard may not be ready to close this minute but give him a couple more months setting up and two months of on-the-job closing experience at the end of this season and he should be fine for 2011.
Given all that, why shouldn’t the Sox make Pap available? Especially since he would net more in a trade this July than he would next December. After all, he would be under control of the buyer for two pennant races and two playoffs. He is still elite, or at least borderline elite. Put him in the NL and he would be tossing zeros all over the place. Simply put, teams pay for that especially teams that watch their bullpens throw away a game a week.
As Tony says, Pap does not figure into the long-term plans of this club so if you can get 90 cents this July, rather than 65 cents in December, why wouldn’t you trade him? You then slide Bard into the closers spot, you hope to bring along some new middle relievers from within, and you have an off-season to bring in a set-up guy for Bard. And by the way, that guy is likely to cost $7-8M less than Papelbon. Plus, you have also acquired some assets for Pap which can be used to improve the 2011 club or one in the future.
To me, this is a no brainer. If the Sox are eight out of the WC on my birthday (July 17th) I would send Pap to the mound wearing a “for sale” sign.