Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Theo Epstein Cares Not For Your Arbitration

I was going to look over the news of the Papelbon signing without comment, until it occurred to me that the Sox just rewarded a decline in performance with the largest contract ever given to a fourth-year closer. The Globe puts the numbers pretty well:
His ERA was down from 2008 (2.34), but perhaps the more notable change was his WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched), which increased to a career-high 1.15. His WHIP was 0.95 in 2008 and 0.77 in 2007. His strikeout-to-walk ratio also sank to a career low (for any of his full seasons in the majors) of 3.17-1. He put up a mark of 9.63-1 in 2008 and 5.60-1 in 2007. He set a career high in walks with 24.
The new deal comes after the expiration of a deal that made him the highest paid first-year arbitration-eligible closer, and two years after the deal that broke the record for highest salary to a non-arbitration-eligible closer...and four months after the blown save that ended the season in a sweep. I'm not saying that Papelbon is washed up or shouldn't be paid as an elite closer, but even if the Sox are keeping the money on a short leash because they think they'll replace Papelbon with Bard in a year or two, why pay an arbitration-eligible player that much more just to keep things from moving to the arbiter? My theory: it's Theo's arbitration-free streak that make Boston willing to pay more, even if the numbers suggest they're taking a risk. After all, it seems logical that keeping younger players from having to go to a third party to make the money they think is fair would give the Sox a reputation as a place where young players would want to sign, making signing draft picks and motivating minor league talent a little easier.