By Sean McAdam
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Increasingly, you hear Jonathan Papelbon as a name the Red Sox would be willing to deal as the GM Meetings swing into their first full day.
But how much sense does that make?
First, Papelbon is coming off, inarguably, his worst season since becoming the team's full-time closer in 2006, posting a career-high 3.90 ERA and blowing a career-high eight saves. His trade value, in that sense, has never been lower.
Second, Papelbon is arbitration eligible and stands to make somewhere between 11 million-12 million for 2011. That would make him the third-highest paid closer in the big leagues behind only Mariano Rivera -- a free agent who will undoubtedly come close to the 15 million he was paid in 2010 -- and Francisco Rodriguez, who will make 11.5 million with the New York Mets.
Finally, there's the matter of Papelbon intent on filing for free agency after 2011 in his quest to become the new salary standard-bearer for closers. (Whether he becomes that will be determined by how well he bounced back next season).
So, any team trading for Papelbon will be paying him an enormous amount after his worst season, knowing that there is little to deter him from going onto the market next November.
Does that sound like a logical plan?
Conjecture is that if the Sox moved Papelbon, they could replace him with free agent closer Rafael Soriano, who was brilliant for Tampa Bay last season. But Soriano will be looking for a multiyear deal -- think at least three years, at least 10-12 million per season -- and the Sox have had an aversion to committing themselves long-term to relievers, even ones as good as Soriano.
Factor in that Soriano is about as old as Papelbon and has been nowhere near as durable and the risks are greater.
About the only scenario where moving Papelbon makes any sense is if the Sox are planning to non-tender him because of the money he stands to make in his final year of arbitration eligibility. The Sox have until Dec. 2 to tender contracts to players not under multi-year deals.
Non-tendering Papelbon would make him a free agent a year early, with the Sox getting nothing in return -- not even a draft pick in compensation.