Blog Entry

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

Posted on: November 11, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 3:59 pm
Bard, Papelbon

By Evan Brunell

With Jonathan Papelbon (photo, right) signing a contract to pitch for the Phillies, what does that mean for the Red Sox?

Boston has a closer-in-waiting in Daniel Bard (photo, left) ready to take over the role, but can they afford to elevate Bard into the role?

Over the last few seasons, the Red Sox have seen how valuable having two elite relievers at the top of the bullpen is. Former manager Terry Francona has often said that Bard was perhaps the most important reliever in the bullpen, even more so than Papelbon. Francona was able to deploy Bard in any inning he saw fit, as opposed to Papelbon, who was largely limited to the ninth inning with a lead as conventional baseball says is done these days. But if Bard ascends to the role, the Red Sox suddenly have a void as setup man, and it may be one more difficult to fill than closer.

The free agent market is saturated with closers, and a handful are expected to be available via trade as well. The setup man market? That's not exactly dripping with talent. While the natural inclination is to simply promote Bard into the closer's role, it may not make the most sense from Boston's end if they're committed to the best one-two punch at the back of the rotation.

But would that be OK with Bard? The Boston Globe says that Bard remaining as a setup man would harm Bard's financial goals. That's obvious -- even as valuable as a setup man is these days, it is far more lucrative to be a closer or a starter. The Globe says that if Papelbon had remained in Boston, Bard would have requested a transition to being a starting pitcher, something he flamed out attempting in the minor leagues. Either way, it appears as if Bard has approached no man's land -- either he's going to start or close. Of course, the Red Sox could simply force him to remain as setup man if the club signs Ryan Madson or Heath Bell.'s Danny Knobler reports that the Red Sox "will be in on" the two closers -- but Bard would be an unhappy camper if this occurs and likely bolts once he hits free agency. Does Boston want that?

One potential solution is to bring in a new closer, albeit temporarily, and ink Bard to a long-term deal with the goal of eventually making him a closer. While this outcome wouldn't work if the Sox signed Madson to replace Papelbon, it might work if that man is Joe Nathan or another closer that would only come on a one- or two-year deal. Boston could ink Bard for lesser dollars up front, followed by commensurate salary for a closer in the latter years, which would give the team time to find a bridge to Bard. Of course, anyone that agrees to a one- or two-year deal to close is doing so for a reason. Can the Red Sox put that much risk into the closer's spot?

Signing Madson or Bell doesn't necessarily preclude Bard from an eventual closer's spot. He's tied to the Red Sox through 2015, so even a four-year deal for another closer could set Bard up to become a closer once he's eligible for free agency, but Bard would be giving up a ton of dollars in the arbitration process as a setup man.

The Red Sox could also go a different direction, such as taking a risk on Jonathan Broxton for one season and installing him as setup man to Bard. Don't forget the team already has Bobby Jenks in the fold, who is looking to bounce back from an injury-marred 2011. He could be the setup man that the team needs if Bard becomes closer. That doesn't solve the setup man conundrum long-term, but it would work for 2012.

Here's a radical thought. Why doesn't Boston take this opportunity to tweak what it means to be a closer? Bard, simply by virtue of having pitched in these situations, knows how valuable an elite setup man can be. What if the Red Sox told him that while he was going to become the closer, he would also pitch in tight situations earlier in the game as needed? Does Boston really need to hold Bard back from a crucial eighth inning for the easy three-run lead ninth-inning save? This is pretty much wishful thinking, as the conventional idea of a closer is pretty much set in stone, but it's fun to dream.

No one knows which direction Boston will go. Heck, even GM Ben Cherington probably isn't 100 percent positive how things will unfold now that he has several different scenarios to juggle. This much is clear: Cherington has a challenge on his hands to replace the best closer in team history.

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Since: Oct 25, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 6:08 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

Bard was terrible down the stretch because he was overused. 70 appearences, 73 innings, not to mention the times he warmed up without pitching. I hope he gets a shot at closing. The Sox can sign three or four potential setup candidates and save the money for starters.

Since: Jan 15, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 5:06 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

Wow the Sox are really trying to be a horrible team next year! An in-experienced manager coming on board, a new gm, no Papelbon, most likely no Ortiz!

They better get Madsen or Bell cause Bard isn't ready to close!

They also better get Pujols to play 3rd or DH and trade Youkilis! Also bring in 2 top notch starters to replace Shelackey and Dice-K.

This team is in shambles for the future!


Since: Sep 18, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:58 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

I don't think it's that big a deal.  Papelbon has made it very clear that he was all about the money.  I find it ironic that he has one medicore year, then a bad year, then in a contract year he has a great year.  Not to mention I personally don't like him.  He talks about himself like he sets the standards for closers.  Marianno Riviera is the greatest closer of all time and for Papelbon to put his name in that catagory is nuts.  I am a red sox fan.

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:38 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

bard is a disaster waiting to happen. He was pretty atroicious down the stretch. They better pick up someone from the outside

Since: Apr 11, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:32 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

Heath Bell, Ryan Madson,Joe Nathan, &  Francisco Rodriguez are still available. I got the feeling at the end of the season that he and the team just  didn't want each other.

Since: Sep 2, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:29 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

"despicable human being?" What did he do, rape and kill your sister? What a ridiculous staement. If you think for a minute that the Red Sox were not planning on having Papelbon back this year, you are delusional. I guarantee that this has caught them completely of guard.

Since: Oct 14, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:09 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

As a "sort of" Sox fan I couldn;t be happier. Papelbone is a despicable human being- giving him perhaps too much credit.

Since: Sep 5, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:01 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

the pitchers might be sober by then lol

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 3:54 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

Make Bard the closer. If the Sox make Bobby Jenks the closer, they will be a .500 team at best. For the most part, the free agent closers stink.

Since: Nov 7, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 3:53 pm

What do Red Sox do without Papelbon?

Here's another thought?  Why do the Sox think Bard is so valuable.  He was terrible the last month and half and was a big reason for many of the losses.  He was 2-7 with a 3.33 ERA which is very telling because it doesn't even factor in the runs he allowed to score that weren't charged to him.  He's so predictable and gives up home runs.  As a Yankees fan, I hope they do keep him as their closer.  Every Yankees fan hated Pablebon, but reason being was that he was good.  He looked like a d-bag pearing in, but you hated him because he got the job done against your team.  Yankees love hitting against Bard.  I say keep him as closer. 

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