The Curious Case of Jonathan Papelbon

matt eliasContributor IJanuary 21, 2009

With arbitration case season just ahead of us there are some interesting cases out there. The first is obviously Ryan Howard who threw out one of the largest requests in the history of arbitration with an $18 million request.

The Phillies' counter offer of $14 million is completely fair and should be what is awarded. Albert Pujols makes that and he is 10-times the all-around player that Howard is.

But the most interesting case is for a guy who has already signed back with his team to avoid the arbitration hearing. This case is the case of Jonathan Papelbon. He recently took a $6 million offer for the upcoming season. He is using a different tactic than fellow teammates Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.

Papelbon is willing to take this year-to-year and not buyout any arbitration years or free-agency years. He is taking a risk on his health by trying to get to free agency quicker.

However, he is the one guy who should not be willing to sign for anything less. He is also the one guy who should never sign with the Red Sox for a home-town discount. If anyone has already sacrificed for the good of the team, it is Jonathan Papelbon.

Papelbon was groomed to be a starter as that is what he did his whole career. However, when he was called up in 2005 the Sox had a weakness in the bullpen and the team asked him to move to reliever and eventually closer. This move has led to a world title in 2007 and three all-star appearances in his three years as a closer.

His success and dominance in the role of closer doesn't make up for the amount that Papelbon has sacrificed. He has agreed to take a role on a team that is not in his best career interest. Closers do not make as much money as starting pitchers. Look at what K-Rod made and what CC Sabathia or Derek Lowe just signed for.

Also he has taken on a position that leads to more injuries and shorter careers. Mariano Rivera aside, most closers are dominant for a short period of time and not long lengthy runs of dominance. Closers are usually abused and overused while starters are coddled and cared for.

Papelbon is also one of the top closers in the game. He and Mariano Rivera are in a separate class of closers, as they routinely have gotten their team more than three outs. Papelbon is willing to come in and get six outs if needed—something that most closers won't do.

He also has postseason success as he hasn't given up a run in October. If K-Rod got $12 million a year, Papelbon should get more than that.

The Red Sox have put him in a position that worsens his economic standing and makes him more prone to injury. He has done this for the team and the team should step up and pay him accordingly.

He should be paid top dollar right now as the abuses his arm takes closing might not allow him a lengthy career and the full monetary value he would earn if he were a starter.