What Will Youk and Pap Command in Arbitration?

Evan BrunellFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2009

Jayson Stark's latest piece has a look out on arbitration. Here are the relevant pieces:

There's one more groundbreaking case on this list, and Papelbon is it. From every indication, Papelbon will wind up with the highest salary ever by a closer with three years of service time. The only mystery is: How much?

"This one perplexes me," one NL executive said. "This guy has been so good, and that team has such deep resources, I don't know what I'm missing. Why haven't they signed him? If you're trying to pick out the next Mariano Rivera, wouldn't it be him? Plus, he's a guy who he handles that whole Boston scene so well."

All true. Yet this has the potential to be a tricky, maybe even explosive, case.

Papelbon has spent the past three years willingly sacrificing himself for the greater good, allowing the Red Sox to define his role outside the boundaries of common modern-day closer ground rules. His 22 saves of four outs or more since 2006 rank second only to Rivera's, and his 35 appearances of four outs or more rank third among closers, behind Rivera and J.J. Putz.

But now, in return, Papelbon is looking for a reward for his sacrifice, his workload and the toll that workload could take on his potential career longevity. The result is a philosophical difference about his value that the Red Sox haven't been able to resolve. You wouldn't think either side would want this to reach a hearing room. But follow this case carefully.

The Red Sox have had a lot of success convincing their players to take less money for the sheer joy of playing in Boston. But Papelbon and Youkilis are two who haven't been willing to play that game. Yet. One GM wonders whether Youkilis (now two years from free agency) is a victim of his do-it-ugly persona: "Teixeira gets his money because he produces AND he looks really good doing it. But if you look at the last two years, the guy who has outproduced him is Youkilis."