Closing In

The Philadelphia Phillies have found their closer, and appear to be a physical away from making the deal official, according to's Jim Salisbury.

On Friday afternoon, news broke that the Phillies have reached an agreement with free agent closing pitcher Jonathan Papelbon that will pay the right-hander nearly $50 million over four years. The deal all by slams the door on incumbent closer Ryan Madson, who, only days before, appeared to have a deal in place to stay with the Phillies. Those plans, it seems, fell through, leaving the home-grown Madson to find the employ of another team.

If the reports are true, and all indications point in the affirmative, then the Phillies are pushing more of their chips into the middle, as spending that kind of money on a relief pitcher is, well, silly. That's not to say that Papelbon won't be a great addition to the Phillies, it's just that effective relief pitchers are a dime a dozen, and are only really valued because of the save statistic, which, in this blogger's opinion, are wildly overrated and long term contracts with relief pitchers rarely work out in the team's favor.

However, Papelbon does bring a better-than-good resume along with him. As the closer for the Boston Red Sox from 2006 through 2011, he saved 219 games and set down hitters at a rate of 10.8 K/9 per inning to go along with a 2.30 ERA. He is more than capable, and at 30 years of age, isn't past his prime.

The main point of contention with the deal, at least among most bloggers and fans, is that the Phillies are seemingly spending money just to spend it, despite the fact that they have more pressing needs, say, like at the shortstop position. Although it's nice to have a closer like Papelbon, it's an awfully large financial commitment to a player who will see action in 5% of the innings. In the grand scheme of things, relief pitchers have a much smaller impact on the game than nearly any other player on the roster, and should be payed accordingly. However, in this day and age of specialized bullpens and designated roles for relievers, no cost is too high for production.

That said, Papelbon will be a nice anchor at the back end of a bullpen that will consist of mostly young, effective, and cheap arms, and will be more than effective when the 2012 season rolls around. Still, the most pressing need surrounding the team is the lack of offense, and all the pitching in the world can't cure that ailment.

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