The first significant signing of the 2011-2012 MLB off-season took place on Friday when the Philadelphia Phillies signed relief pitcher
In addition to four years, the deal also includes a vesting option for a fifth season. The deal is currently pending a physical. If all falls into place, Papelbon could become the highest paid relief pitcher since the Toronto Blue Jays signed B.J. Ryan
Papelbon, 30, spent seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, posting a 23-19 record, a 2.33 ERA, and recording 219 saves. He recorded 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) over 429 1/3 innings. He was a four-time All-Star and won the 2004 World Series with Boston.
In 2011, Papelbon converted 31-of-34 save opportunities, but recorded just two saves during Boston's collapse in September. Papelbon, a converted starter, became the first reliever to record 35 or more saves in his first five full big league seasons.
If the season started today, Boston would turn over their closing duties to right-handed reliever Daniel Bard
. Bard, 26, has pitched in 197 innings for Boston since the 2009 season, primarily as a set-up man in the eighth inning. In 192 games, Bard is 5-13 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. If Boston signs another reliever for the ninth inning, Bard could shift to the starting rotation, as Daisuke Matsuzaka
and John Lackey
are recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The signing by Philadelphia is interesting due to the fact the team reportedly had a deal in place with Ryan Madson
earlier this week, but that seems to have fallen through for whatever reason. With Papelbon being a Type-A free agent, the Phillies will surrender their first round pick to Boston in next year's draft.
From a fantasy viewpoint, Papelbon's status doesn't change that much by inking with the Phillies. He's a relief pitcher that has had sustainable fantasy numbers that have kept him near the top of the rankings for closers over the past five years. As far as Bard's "closer" status with Boston, fantasy owners will have to keep an eye on the situation to see if Boston signs another reliever.