Sox avoid arbitration with Papelbon
Club open to exploring multiyear deal; Lopez also signs for '09
Going into the arbitration process, Theo Epstein had a reputation for never letting negotiations reach an actual hearing in his six-plus years as the Red Sox's general manager.
On Tuesday, he made sure that didn't change.
The Red Sox finished business with their remaining arbitration-eligible players when they signed closer Jonathan Papelbon and left-handed reliever Javier Lopez to one-year deals. Papelbon, in his first year of eligibility, will make $6.25 million, which is a record for a relief pitcher eligible for the first time.
"It's certainly satisfying [to not go to arbitration]," assistant general manager Jed Hoyer said via conference call. "You definitely don't go into the process saying we're going to avoid it. I think that you go in trying to get a fair number for the team, but in the back of our minds, obviously, we have two players in this situation who have meant a lot to the team, won a lot of games for us and you certainly don't want to go into a hearing room if you don't have to, so it definitely is satisfying to get it done."
But the Red Sox may not be finished with Papelbon.
After signing second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Kevin Youkilis to multiyear deals this offseason, the Red Sox, Hoyer hinted, could be working on a similar deal for the hard-throwing Papelbon.
"We did have some discussions along the way, and I would say that certainly those discussions are open and we may pick them up going forward," Hoyer said. "I think both sides felt like in the interest of time and not exchanging numbers [for a potential hearing], we thought the best thing to do was agree on a one-year number today, but we are certainly open to exploring those ideas.
"And going forward, I think the other side is, too."
Papelbon, who made $775,000 last season, went 5-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 2008 and set career highs with 41 saves, 67 appearances and 69 1/3 innings pitched. In his four years with the Red Sox, Papelbon -- a fourth-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft -- has gone 13-10 with a 1.84 ERA and 113 saves. His ERA is the second lowest in Major League history among pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings.
Papelbon has also thrown a postseason-record 25 innings without allowing a run and is 4-2 with seven saves in those 16 games. The 28-year-old right-hander is one of four pitchers in history to record 30 or more saves in each of his first three Major League seasons, joining Billy Koch (four), Kazuhiro Sasaki (three) and Todd Worrell (three).
With White Sox closer Bobby Jenks setting the record for a first-year arbitration-eligible reliever on Monday, when he signed a $5.6 million deal, Hoyer said it was only right that his ninth-inning guy topped that mark.
"Yeah, I think he's earned it," Hoyer said of Papelbon. "Bobby Jenks became the highest ever yesterday, and we felt like Jonathan deserved to have some separation between him and Bobby, so I think it wasn't so much us making him the highest ever, it was him really earning it.
"In Pap's case, we think we have one of the best, if not the best, closer."
The 31-year-old Lopez, who made $840,000 last year, went 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA in 70 appearances in 2008. His deal is worth $1.35 million, according to SI.com.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.